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Dec. 21, 2019, 9:18 a.m. EST

Good news: the ‘stock-bond ratio’ just hit bottom. Here’s how to use it to invest.

It’s many of the same themes that stand to benefit from “the reflation trade”

By Andrea Riquier


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Could the high “beta” of sectors like biotech be the best way to invest next year?

If the global downturn has bottomed and economic growth rebounds in the coming year, what is the best way to invest?

A new analysis from Ned Davis Research comes up with some familiar responses to that question, with a twist.

The firm’s ETF strategist, Will Geisdorf, uses a measurement called the “stock-bond ratio:” the S&P 500 divided by the U.S. Long-Term Treasury Bond Index, to confirm the coming recovery, and to offer some selections. As the ratio rises, stocks do better than bonds, and vice versa.

“The stock/bond ratio has bottomed prior to the economy in each of the last seven global slowdowns,” Geisdorf wrote in a recent analysis. “Barring an escalation in the trade war, we should see a recovery in early 2020 based on historical lead times.”

Related: Bond yields can’t stay low forever, Dudley says. Not so fast, says one analyst.

Geisdorf’s analysis of which exchange-traded funds are most likely to benefit in this environment returns a set of funds that are higher in beta, or volatility and risk, than the broader market. The sector bets expressed by these funds, including biotech, health care, and banks, also stand to do better in a reflationary environment (here’s an earlier MarketWatch piece on research from Geisdorf pointing to the first signs of reflation in markets and the economy, from September.)

Tellingly, Geisdorf’s analysis confirms other, fundamental, research that suggests investing in many of the same sectors. Biotech, health care services, energy, and banks all have the best “valuation risk/reward,” Geisdorf noted.

Here are his ETF picks.

ETFs with highest sensitivity to the stock/bond ratio
VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (PSE:OIH)  
SPDR S&P Oil Services ETF (PSE:XOP)  
ARK Innovation ETF (PSE:ARKK)  
United States Oil Fund LP (PSE:USO)  
SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (PSE:KRE)  
SPDR KBW Bank ETF (PSE:KBE)  
Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF (NAS:BOTZ)  
ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (PSE:MJ)  
Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (PSE:XLE)  
iShares Micro-Cap ETF (PSE:IWC)  
Source: Ned Davis Research analysis

Related: Here’s what may drive stocks even higher (hint: not the trade war or the Fed)

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