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Dec. 11, 2020, 8:42 a.m. EST

The one big reason growth stocks have outperformed over the last decade is about to change, strategist says

By Steve Goldstein

Since Pfizer first announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was effective, there has been a clear shift in financial markets toward the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, and away from the technology titans that have thrived in the stay-at-home environment.

Scott Opsal, director of equities for Leuthold Weeden Capital Management in Minneapolis, says value, small-caps and emerging markets share similar characteristics as anti-large growth rotation plays.

“a) Each is pro-cyclical, benefiting from an upswing in business activity, b) Each tend to perform better during periods of widespread earnings growth, c) Each has a lower exposure to secular growers and is less populated by companies known for strong profitability and high quality, d) Each is priced at a substantial discount to [large-company growth] today.”

Since 2008, the Russell 2000 (USA:RUT) , S&P 500 value index (S&P:XX:SP500PV) , and MSCI emerging markets index (MSCI:XX:891800) have generally moved in lockstep. Over the last decade — from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2020 — the S&P 500 value index has gained 190%, and the Russell 2000 has gained 187%. Of course, those nearly identical performances have been trounced by S&P 500 growth (S&P:XX:SP500PG) , which has surged 365%.

Right now, he says, on valuation measures such as price-to-earnings, price-to-sales, and price-to-cash flow, the difference between large-cap growth and the three other asset classes are in the 87th to 99th percentiles.

One notable finding is that, since 2003, large-cap growth stocks outperform when the economy is struggling. He looked at nominal gross domestic product growth, which is real GDP plus inflation. Growth’s trailing 12-month returns outpace each style by 4% to 5% during periods when nominal GDP growth is under 4%, but there is no advantage at all when growth is above that level, and in fact emerging markets outperform by nearly 6% when nominal growth is above 4%.

In an email, Opsal said investors, particularly those that remain heavily exposed to the growth style, should be gradually rotating toward these cyclical plays. He said the Leuthold Core Fund has increased its weighting of industrials and consumer durables to benefit from a cyclical value rotation. He also said its global tactical managed exchange-traded fund strategy has added ETFs in the industrial and materials sectors, and purchased small-cap and equally-weighted ETFs to capture the undervaluation of small-cap stocks.

The buzz

The COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer (NYS:PFE) and its partner BioNTech (NAS:BNTX) received the endorsement of an advisory panel , and the Food and Drug Administration said it plans to approve the treatment on an emergency basis.

Not all the vaccine news was positive — GlaxoSmithKline (NYS:GSK) and Sanofi (NAS:SNY) said their vaccine triggered an insufficient response in older adults , so it is going to be delayed until the fourth quarter of 2021 as they seek to improve it. Australian researchers and the government agreed not to proceed further with the vaccine made by the University of Queensland and biopharmaceutical company CSL (ASX:AU:CSL) , because of the false positive HIV results it triggered.

U.S. stimulus talks are getting bogged down again, according to Politico , after recent momentum. European Union leaders, however, seem on the path to securing their budget deal, even as they struggle to reach a trade deal with the U.K., with both U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen saying no deal was more likely ahead of their Sunday deadline.

Walt Disney Co. (NYS:DIS) shares jumped 8% in premarket action, as the media and entertainment giant said a slate of big-budget movies will open on its burgeoning streaming service and in theaters as part of a direct-to-consumer push, and it set out plans for 10 new Marvel series and 10 new “Star Wars” series . Its Disney+ streaming service had 86.8 million paid subscribers as of Dec. 2. 

Nio (NYS:NIO) dropped in premarket trade as the Chinese electric vehicle make r joined Tesla (NAS:TSLA) in selling more stock.

Swedish telecommunications-equipment vendor Ericsson (NAS:ERIC) warned that “current geopolitical conditions” are impacting handset sales volumes, as is the shift from 4G to 5G handsets. It also sued Samsung Electronics (KRX:KR:005930) for royalties.

The market

U.S. stock futures (CME:ES00) (CME:NQ00) were pointing to a rough start, with futures on the Dow industrials (CBT:YM00) down more than 160 points.

The U.S. dollar (IFUS:DXY) rose, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury (XTUP:BX:TMUBMUSD10Y) was 0.88%.

The pound (XTUP:GBPUSD) , which neared $1.35 on Wednesday, fell below $1.32 on the U.K.-EU trade fears.

Chart of the day

Berenberg Bank has produced this chart of surging global shipping costs. It reflects disrupted supply chains, and various COVID-19 restrictions mean that it takes longer to process containers and distribute the goods. The construction industry, and those producing sophisticated durable goods, could see delays. It might not impact consumer prices much — a Kansas City Federal Reserve study in 2016 found that a 15% increase in shipping costs leads to a 0.1 percentage point rise in core inflation after one year, and that was at a time when demand was much stronger.

Random reads

Time magazine awarded its Person of the Year to two people, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris .

A new species of whale was found off the coast of Mexico.

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