Up eight times in the first nine days of 2018, the S&P 500 has broken away from a trend line — its 200-day moving average — with a velocity unseen since 2013, the best year for equities in a generation.
The New Year’s rally has pushed the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to its best start since the administration of George W. Bush. Now it’s bumping against speed barriers that marked the upper limits of bull markets for decades.
Up eight times in the first nine days of 2018, the S&P 500 has broken away from a trend line — its 200-day moving average — with a velocity unseen since 2013, the best year for equities in a generation. The benchmark now sits more than 11 percent above the level, putting it in the 92nd percentile of momentum, data going back 20 years show.
Something has changed in equities. If 2017 was a slow but steady slog, 2018 has been off to the races, with shares rising at four times last year’s daily rate on the back of President Donald Trump’s tax package and gathering signs of economic strength. Forty seven companies in the S&P 500 are already up at least 10 percent this year, compared with just two down as much.
“Even if you were the bullest of the bulls, this crazy rally start to the year took you off guard,” said Michael Antonelli, an institutional equity sales trader and managing director at Robert W. Baird & Co. “We’ve completely run out of ways to describe what’s happening. We get asked a lot, are you seeing anything different that could explain the rally? The answer is no.”
Fear of missing out is rampant not just on Wall Street but worldwide. Globally, stock funds saw a $24 billion inflow in the five days through Thursday, the sixth largest weekly total ever.
The average of 23 strategists’ predictions is for the S&P 500 to reach 2,914 at year-end. If stocks were to maintain the same upward trajectory they’ve exhibited in the last nine days, it would take roughly two more weeks to reach the strategists’ target.
The upcoming earnings season may support the index’s heady valuation. S&P 500 companies are likely to report per-share earnings growth of 10.2 percent for the fourth quarter of 2017, data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence show.