Record high stock market not telling the whole story

Photo (c) James Threw - Fotolia

Most stocks are not participating in the rally

The stock market closed at a string of record highs last week, boosted by strong earnings reports and optimism about the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is over 22,000, the Nasdaq is closing in on 6,000, and the S&P 500 is within striking distance of 2,500. But market analysts are cautioning that those heady numbers may be a little misleading. They're being propelled higher by only a handful of stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is made up of 30 stocks, but one of them happens to be Apple, which has been on a tear lately. McDonald's, Boeing, and Microsoft are also included in the Dow, and those stocks have largely pushed the average higher.

Soaring tech

Drilling deeper into all three indices, you'll find that technology stocks in general have soared in the last few months, far outpacing the rest of the market. Normally, analysts like to see the broader market participate in a rally.

In particular, the stocks of companies like Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google -- the so-called FANG stocks -- have led the way. Energy, financial services, and most other sectors have lagged behind.

Cliff Asness at AQR Capital Management told Bloomberg News this pattern is the normal case and doesn't see it as anything to be concerned about. But Richard Harris, a Hong Kong-based chief executive officer of Port Shelter Investment Management, doesn't think it's a good sign.

“It very often means that eventually people are going to run out of things to buy," he told Bloomberg.


Barry James, CEO of the Advantage Fund, is in a similar camp. On CNBC's "Futures Now," he compared the current market to the "super-volcano" in Yellowstone National Park.

"Even though [the market] looks beautiful—setting new highs, good momentum, and earnings have been coming in strong, [there are] things to worry about," he told the network.

Marketwatch reported Monday that other market analysts are turning negative on the market -- or at least becoming more cautious. It notes that Brad Lamensdorf, a portfolio manager at Ranger Alternative Management, is finding bearish signals on market breadth -- the number of stocks that are rising against those that are falling.

Consumers with retirement funds invested in equities should not make any rash moves based on analysts forecasts. Instead, this might be a good time to review your portfolio with your investment advisor, to make sure you are well positioned for any eventuality, and to update asset allocations and plan for the future.

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