Is it Time for the Contrarian Bet?

Summary

  • The direction of the financial markets have not really changed that much since late last year, but volatility for U.S. equities is much higher
  • In our view, the risk/reward ratio of taking contrarian investment bets is not favorable right now, but that can change rapidly in the near future
  • A select few sectors are still in a bullish uptrend
  • This is a very dangerous market where increasing the cash allocation seems to be the prudent choice. Sudden and violent moves can happen rapidly in the currency, commodity, equity and bond markets.

Often, the weakest investments from last year can turn out to be the best performers in the next. Since international markets and sectors related to natural resources have fallen tremendously in 2014, it is tempting to take contrarian bets right now and hope to be able to buy close to the bottom. However, whether we like or not, timing can be critical and jumping into a declining investment can have a devastating effect on an otherwise well-balanced portfolio.

When volatility is increasing, it is always useful to take a longer-term view of the direction of the key asset classes. As we can see from the two-year charts below, long-term Treasury bonds are still declining, the dollar is still advancing against a basket of major currencies, and commodities, such as crude oil, are still falling.

Perhaps the most striking feature of these charts is the steepness of the curves. While it is tempting to believe that the direction of the trends is about to reverse in a big way, the reversals have not happened yet, and we simply cannot know if the next rally/sell off will be temporary, or, if it will mark a turn of the long-term trend.

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While the long-term trends for the other three asset classes have not changed yet, U.S. equities have started experiencing increased volatility since November 2014, and now are locked in a trading range. The long-term trend is still up, but the U.S. stock market is on the cusp of rolling over.

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Is it time to buy beaten down stock sectors, such as commodities or gold, or jump into Latin American equities? We think that the risks are too high right now, but would not be surprised to see these investments outperforming the market at one point in the future.

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The Wall Street adage says that there is always a bull market somewhere.  The charts below show a sampling of Fidelity income and equity funds that have done exceptionally well in the recent period, and may continue to outperform:

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Read more about investment strategies at FidelitySignal.com

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New Investment Opportunity in High-Yield Corporate Bonds?

Corporate bonds have experienced a volatile period since August of 2014, but the renewed demand for income producing investments and the strengthening of the U.S. economy makes high yield corporate bonds attractive again.

The Fidelity Capital and Income Fund (FAGIX) provides a great way to play this new trend. FAGIX, in spite of its name, is a high yield bond fund. The fund managers use a rigorous fundamental analysis to select investments. The chart shows that FAGIX broke out from a consolidation period, which lasted for six months. In our view, the 4.18% dividend, the potential for capital appreciation and the five star rating by Morningstar makes FAGIX an appealing investment choice.

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Read more about investment strategies involving the FAGIX fund at FidelitySignal.com

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Large Price Drop of Multiple Fidelity Funds is due to Capital Gains Distribution

The Fidelity Magellan Fund (FMAGX) and several other Fidelity sector and international funds experienced large percentage drops of their Net Asset Value (NAV) at the end of the Friday trading session due to the distribution of capital gains. Investors will receive the distributions on the “pay date”, which is Monday, December 8. For more details click here.

Here are a few examples of Fidelity funds with large price drops:

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Top 10 Fidelity Mutual Funds

The broad-based rally for U.S. stocks continues, as we approach the seasonally bullish year-end period. The list of the top 10 Fidelity funds (see more at FidelitySignal) is dominated by sector funds representing a diverse set of industries, such as retailing, consumer finance, IT services, health care and transportation:

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The top year-to-date performer is the Fidelity Select Transportation Fund (FSRFX) with 29.01% gain so far in 2014. The holdings of the fund include airline, shipping and railroad companies, which all benefit from declining energy prices.

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Equity Rally Accelerates; New Buying Opportunities

Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 indexes closed at record high levels on Friday. The catalyst was the announcement by the Bank of Japan to substantially increase its Quantitative Easing program, which was expanded to include the purchase of equity and real estate investment trust assets.

As markets now show signs of stabilization, in my view, two Fidelity mutual funds stand out as new investment opportunities: the Select Wireless Communications Fund (FWRLX) and the Low Priced Stock Fund (FLPSX). Both funds pulled back during the market correction, but have moved back above their respective moving averages and their charts show a bullish price pattern.

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Read about investment strategies involving these funds at FidelitySignal.com

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Best Fidelity Fund of 2014: Fidelity Real Estate Fund (FRESX)

Oversold stock markets rallied around the world today due to multiple factors, including declining interest rates and reduced geopolitical threats. I’d continue to be very cautious with committing new funds to equity investments until we can see if the rally can sustain itself. With that said, it is worth noting the emerging new trends in the healthcare, retail and the real estate sectors.

As an example, the chart shows that the Fidelity Real Estate Investment Portfolio Fund (FRESX) is turning increasingly bullish. The blue arrow on the chart shows the buy signal that was issued for FRESX by FidelitySignal.com on February 11. FRESX is now the top-performing Fidelity fund of the year based on total return.

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View investment strategies and buy/sell signals at FidelitySignal.com

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Stock Market Correction: Own the Best Fidelity Funds to Avoid Volatility

Stock market volatility continued today, with the S&P 500 index and all other major U.S. equity indexes either approaching correction territory or already in it. The increase of the volume during the sell-off is disconcerting and may indicate deleveraging by large hedge funds and institutional investors.

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As the equity market correction has been unfolding, in previous articles I have highlighted the “falling knives”, the investment areas that prudent investors should avoid. The two weakest investment areas continue to be Euro stocks and energy/natural resources sectors.

Relentless selling has caused tremendous drops already. Consequently, I would not be surprised to see a violent relief rally taking place in these highly oversold markets in the near future.

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While equity markets experience their first serious disruption since the panic of the August 2011 credit-rating downgrade of the U.S. debt, it is worth taking a look at other financial markets, as well.

Most notably, and unexpectedly, interest rates of the long-term Treasury bonds continue to decline rapidly. Paradoxically, as the Federal Reserve has tapered off its bond-buying program, demand has increased for U.S. Treasury bonds, pushing the yield lower. However, this effect is exacerbated by increased reserve requirements for banks and, more recently, the “flight to quality” due to the equity market correction.

Nonetheless, since financial markets often forecast economic conditions 12 to 18 months into the future, the rapidly declining interest rate of long-term Treasuries is probably not a good sign and may signal that the bond market is anticipating economic contraction in 2015 and beyond.

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One of the confounding factors of market action has been the rapid rise of the dollar against all major currencies from August through October. Many commentators have attributed changes in the market to the strengthening of the dollar, however, since the beginning October, the dollar has pulled back and no longer appears to play a key role in determining stock market dynamics. A further weakening of the dollar from these levels could potentially help U.S. multinational companies to report improved earnings in early 2015.

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Commodities, as a group, have experienced a huge deflation since July. Energy and metals are the weakest, while some agricultural commodities are showing signs of bottoming out.

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Perhaps the only silver lining in the commodities space right now is silver, and of course gold, as these two metals are highly correlated. After a devastating decline staring in September 2011, gold bullion bottomed out in July 2013 and has been in a wide trading range ever since.

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I’d like to highlight here two conservative investments, which have worked well throughout 2014, regardless of market volatility. The first one is the Fidelity U.S. Bond Portfolio (FBIDX). FBIDX is a highly diversified bond fund that is appropriate for conservative investors.

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My top pick for the current market environment is the Fidelity Spartan Municipal Income Fund (FHIGX). Its low volatility and a tax-equivalent 3.55% yield continues to make FHIGX a very attractive investment choice.

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A word of caution for bond investors: unfortunately, not all bond funds have done well since the market correction started. High-yielding corporate bonds tend to track the stock market trends more closely than the interest rate trends, and are in a decline now.

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View investment strategies at FidelitySignal.com

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Sector Rotation: Brokerage and Chemical Sectors Show Improving Relative Strength

The list of the top 10 Fidelity funds (ranking provided by FidelitySignal) is currently dominated by mutual funds that invest in the health care and technology sectors, but large cap, retailing, brokerage and chemical funds have also made the list. I’d like to highlight here the Fidelity Select Brokerage (FSLBX) and the Fidelity Select Chemical (FSCHX) funds. Both FSLBX and FSCHX has positive relative strength compared to the S&P 500 index, which shows the potential of these sectors to outperform the market in the seasonally volatile fall period.

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View investment strategies at FidelitySignal.com

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The Best Fidelity Funds to Invest in after the Fed Meeting

The Federal Reserve said in a statement today that it will wind down its bond purchasing program in October, but will continue to aim at keeping interest rates low for a considerable time. Initially, equity markets reacted positively to the news, but the rally faded by the close of the market session.

From the technical standpoint, the most interesting development was the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting a new all-time high at 17,156, while the other major indexes were not able to follow through. Small cap stocks, which typically lead the market in the early phases of a growth cycle, are the weakest right now.

As money rotates into large-cap blue chip stocks, the Fidelity Large Cap Growth Enhanced Index Fund (FLGEX) may be one of the best ways to put fresh money to work in the current market environment:

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Unlike what we have seen during previous market rallies earlier this year, not all sectors show positive momentum right now. Consequently, as we head into the seasonally weak October period, investors will have to be increasingly more selective. The technology and health care sectors show the strongest relative strength right now and barely corrected during the recent sell off. Here are two Fidelity funds that investors can consider using to overweight positions in these two large sectors:

 

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While the Fed’s intention is to keep interest rates low, the yield on the long-term Treasury bond has started rising already and broke its long-term trend today:

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As the result, the bond market sold off and most Fidelity bond funds retreated, as well. Should interest rates continue to climb, bond fund investors will be faced with a difficult situation: the Net Asset Value (price) of their funds can decrease, while they will still be liable for paying taxes on the dividends distributed by the funds. This situation may force more selling of bond funds, which can create a negative feedback cycle for the bond market. The trend reversal for the following two widely held Fidelity bond funds show the potential danger bond investors will face in a rising interest rate environment:

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Buy and sell signals for Fidelity funds are available at FidelitySignal.com

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Large Price Drop of Multiple Fidelity Funds is due to Capital Gains Distribution

Investors may have been alarmed by the large price drops of several Fidelity funds at the end of the Friday trading session. The drop in the net asset value (NAV) of these funds was largely due to the distribution of capital gains, which happens periodically. For more details click here.

Here are a few examples of Fidelity funds with large price drops:

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Buy and sell signals for Fidelity funds are available at FidelitySignal.com

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