Q4 2017 Review: Will The Bull Market Continue?

David Kotok profile picture
David Kotok

By Leo Chen, Ph.D.

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average approaching 25,000, the S&P 500 touching 2,700, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite topping 7,000, our quantitative strategy has once again harvested considerable quarterly gains.

The US stock market is likely to have its second-best year since the financial crisis. While the Dow has touched a new all-time high one out of every four days this year, the Nasdaq is up almost 30% year to date. One $64-million-dollar question that every investor wonders about is, will the bull market continue next year?

Since the presidential election last year, over half of the S&P 500's sectors contributed to this one-year rally, with the Information Technology sector leading the way, miles ahead of others. Broadly speaking, 2017 can be seen as a marketwide rally. Among all the large-cap sectors, there is one particular phenomenon that is boosting investor confidence: sector rotation.

Dissecting 2017 into short segments, we observe that different sectors tend to lead the market at different times. Especially, two of the heavyweights, Financials and Technology, have alternated frequently this year, with joint force from Health Care and Consumer Discretionary. This pattern is typically deemed a healthy sign of broad market participation, particularly in a bull market like 2017's. It also marks a crucial difference between the current bull market run and the 1999 tech-bubble: Two decades ago, the market was led mainly by one sector.

Another major characteristic of this bull run is that volatility has remained significantly low. Twelve months ago, the VIX's sustaining below a 10 handle was not on anyone's forecast list for 2017. One of the main reasons explaining a low-VIX environment is that 2017 hasn't seen any major pullback: 3% is as much as the stock market has retreated in the past twelve months. However, while many may view VIX as a bargain at this time, we would like to remind investors that VIX is cheap only if it poised to rebound soon, as trading VIX exposes investors to significant risk.

So will the bull market continue into 2018? We will have to wait to find out in our 4Q2018 quarterly review. However, just as our quant model constantly monitors the market, we should always watch closely the important factors underlying a bull market.

This article was written by

David Kotok profile picture
David Kotok co-founded Cumberland Advisors in 1973 and has been its Chief Investment Officer since inception. David’s articles and financial market commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and other publications. He is a frequent contributor to Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio, Yahoo Finance TV, and other media. He has authored or co-authored four books, including the second edition of From Bear to Bull with ETFs and Adventures in Muniland. He holds a B.S. in economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. in organizational dynamics from The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.David has served as Program Chairman and currently serves as a Director of the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), www.interdependence.org, whose mission is to encourage the expansion of global dialogue and free trade in order to improve cooperation and understanding among nation states, with the goal of reducing international conflicts and improving worldwide living standards. David chaired its Central Banking Series and organized a five-continent dialogue held in Cape Town, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Milan, Paris, Philadelphia, Prague, Rome, Santiago, Shanghai, Singapore, Tallinn, and Zambia (Livingstone). He has received the Global Citizen Award from GIC for his efforts. David is a member of the National Business Economics Issues Council (NBEIC), the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), has served on the Research Advisory Board of BCA Research and is currently on the advisory board of RiskBridge Advisors. He has also served as a Commissioner of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) and on the Treasury Transition Teams for New Jersey Governors Kean and Whitman. Additionally, he has served as a board member of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and as Chairman of the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority.
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