Long-Short Momentum Down 9% and Other Tales of a Shocked Market

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Long-Short Momentum Down 9% and Other Tales of a Shocked Market
Credit: © Reuters.

(Bloomberg) -- The latest U.S. jobs report will go down in history as the data that shocked economists. And the market.

Forecasts for a drop of 7.5 million in payrolls were met with the reality of a 2.5 million increase in May, supporting the view that the word’s largest economy may be more resilient than previously thought. A stock market already up 40% in a record period of time rallied further, with particular pockets going haywire.

From a blowup in the momentum factor trade to a surge in small-cap shares, here’s a sample of what was happening under the equity market’s surface Friday.

Winners Turn Losers

The momentum factor, which in essence bets that the recent winners will keep on winning, got pummeled Friday. At its lows, a Dow Jones market neutral momentum portfolio that goes long the highest momentum stocks and shorts those with the least momentum dropped 9% -- the worst day since at least 2002.

“The nature of the rally has changed,” said Brian Nick, chief investment strategist for Nuveen. “The stocks that had momentum have lost it. If this keeps going then the new momentum will be value. Everything has happened fast in 2020, it’s very much in keeping with that.”

The index pared some of its losses to 6.5%, but still posted the largest decline in a decade.

Smaller Is Better

Small-cap stocks surged on prospects of a faster economic rebound, sending the Russell 2000 up as much as 4.6%. The risk-on tone was evident in the large-cap arena too, with an equal-weight version of the S&P 500 that gives Coty (NYSE: COTY ) Inc. just as much weight as Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ: MSFT ). rising 4.3% at one point.

The equal-weight benchmark is up close to 10% this week, its best period versus the classic market-cap weighted index in two decades.

“If we want to make sense of the market move, we need to not just look at the S&P or the Nasdaq but look beyond that,” said Willie Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird. “Areas that lagged for years that made much more substantial lows are coming back as the economy transitions from worse-than-expected data to better-than-expected data.”

Airlines Fly, Cruise Ships Sail

Some of the best-performing stocks Friday were airlines and cruise lines. They were hit hard in the coronavirus stock crash and arguably stand to be among the first in line to benefit from a return to economic normal. American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL ) Group Inc. was up 26%, extending its 41% record gain on Thursday.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NYSE: NCLH ) Holdings, Carnival (NYSE: CUK ) Corp., United Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ: UAL ) Inc. and Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL ) Cruises Ltd. were all up at least 15%.

Energized Energy

Among 11 S&P 500 sectors, energy was the best performing Friday, up more than 7%. Occidental Petroleum Corp (NYSE: OXY ). rose 23%, while Apache Corp (NYSE: APA ). and Noble Energy Inc (NASDAQ: NBL ). also added more than 12%.

“It’s all about the future and we are coming out of the storm,” said Bryce Doty, senior portfolio manager at Sit Investment Associates. “It was a terrible storm that caused widespread destruction. Everything from this point on will be ‘less bad’ and even turn positive. Huge sentiment shift.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


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