stock market performance so far in October 2023

It’s been an odd, disturbing month, to date:

–three prominent failed IPOs–ARM, Instacart and Birkenstock

–no clear sign yet that interest rates have peaked

–no Speaker of the House, with, absent legislative action, potential default on Treasury securities weeks away

–Trump is apparently arguing in court that he should remain on the ballot for the 2024 election despite his attempt to overthrow the government after his loss in 2020, because he had no duty as the sitting president to support the Constitution

–retailers like Target, Walmart and Dollar General continue to complain of unusually high levels of theft in their stores. I found the shaving cream in my local Target all locked up this morning

–the Chinese, UK and German economies are on the ropes

–the horrific attack by Hamas on Israel seems to suggest, at the very least, renewed instability in the Middle East

In sum, lots of storm clouds and few rays of sunshine.

Look at the stock market, though. Month to date, through 10/11, returns are as follows:

Communication services +5.4%

IT +4.6%

NASDAQ +3.0%

S&P 500 Growth +2.8%

Industrials +2.2%

S&P 500 +2.1%

Real estate +2.1%

Consumer discretionary +1.5%

Healthcare +1.4%

S&P 500 Value +1.2%

Utilities +1.0%

Materials +0.7%

Financials +0.4%

Russell 2000 -2.1%

Staples -2.7%

Energy -3.4%

The returns, ex the Russell 2000, which represents mid-sized, US-focused firms, are generally positive. Energy, which follows its own drummer most of the time, is down despite trouble in the Middle East and the onset of winter heating season in the northern hemisphere. Staples, a defensive group with lots of exposure to Europe, is the only other sector in the minus column. Growth is outperforming Value, meaning offensive stocks doing better than defensive.

Yes, we’re only talking about a small number of trading days. But we’re arguably still in a seasonally weak part of the year. My point, though, is that if we look only at how the overall US stock market is performing, you’d think we don’t have a care in the world–except for maybe smaller firms focused on mostly domestic customers.

I don’t mean to suggest I think the market is going to run away to the upside. What the numbers say to me is that we’re in a market of individual stock stories, where macro factors won’t count for a lot (unless you’re pondering buying Chinese property stocks), but where a low-ish PE multiple and accelerating earnings growth will be rewarded.

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