Transports have lagged the broad market so far this year, causing many to wonder if that signals an impending economic and market downturn. We do not think so, and our claim is supported by the historical data. As we discuss transports’ efficacy as a leading indicator (so called “Dow Theory”), we provide analysis showing that transports’ weakness in recent decades has actually been a better buy signal for the stock market than a sell signal, and we reiterate our positive view of the industry. While the situation in Greece is uncertain and very fluid, we do not expect a potential breakup of the Eurozone to cause a recession or bear market in the United States, and we would be looking for opportunities to buy transports stocks — or stocks in general — on significant weakness, should it occur.
WHAT IS DOW THEORY?
Concern that weakness in transportation stocks (transports) might be a warning for the broader markets comes from Dow Theory, one of the oldest applications of technical analysis. First developed more than 100 years ago by Charles Dow, founder of The Wall Street Journal, and refined by others, Dow developed two averages to measure stock market performance that eventually became today’s Dow Jones Industrial and Transportation Averages. During the Industrial Revolution, these averages provided a good representationof the economy. Today, if you want confirmation of a trend reversal for the broad S&P 500 Index that gives you a more representative picture of the U.S. economy, you would not necessarily look to transports, which play a smaller role in the current more service-based and technology-driven U.S. economy than they did in Dow’s day. You might instead look to the Nasdaq Composite, which represents We do not believe transports’ weakness is a signal of an impending economic and market downturn. Historical data suggest transports’ underperformance may actually be signaling a buying opportunity for the S&P 500 rather than a sell. We believe transports present an attractive investment opportunity for the second half of 2015.