Monday's sell-off was focused on economically sensitive stocks and for Brenda Kelly, Chief Market Strategist at IG Markets, it comes as no surprise.
In Business Insider's tremendously useful post "Wall Street's Brightest Minds Reveal THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARTS IN THE WORLD," Ms. Kelly observes that the ratio of economically cyclical stocks to consumer staples has reached highs where previous corrections have occurred.
The ratio, calculated by dividing the Morgan Stanley Cyclicals Index by the S&P 500 Consumer Staples Index, is a measure of economic optimism as reflected in stock selection. When equity investors are bullish on the economy, they buy stocks where earnings are sensitive to economic activity. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Ford Motor Co. and Ingersoll-Rand Co. are all among the largest weighted stocks in the cyclicals index.
Ms. Kelly's chart is reproduced below. The cyclicals/staples ratio is currently 3.44, approaching the 3.5 mark when corrections began in 2007 and early 2011.
The chart makes Monday's U.S. market action more intelligible. The S&P 500 was led south by consumer discretionary, materials and industrials stocks – three of the most economically sensitive sectors.
Distracted by the steep sell-offs in technology stocks, I had no idea there was this much economic optimism represented in equity markets. Investors now appear now to have realized they put the cart before the horse where the U.S. economy is concerned and are having to reduce their bets.
Follow Scott Barlow on Twitter at @SBarlow_ROB.