Market Momentum: Riding the Quality Wave, But Where’s the Next Stop?

The financial markets of late 2023 and early 2024 have been a rollercoaster ride. While concerns about inflation and central bank tightening lingered, a distinct trend emerged – the resurgence of momentum investing, particularly within technology and semiconductors. This blog post dives into the current market landscape, dissects the momentum trade grabbing headlines, and explores what lies beyond the current focus on quality.

The Market in Motion: A Tug-of-War Between Growth and Value

The tail end of 2023 saw a correction in the growth rally that dominated the first half of the year. The S&P 500, heavily weighted towards technology stocks, shed over 12% by mid-June. This decline stemmed from rising inflation data, with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) reaching a 40-year high of 7.5% in January. The Federal Reserve’s hawkish pivot, signaling aggressive interest rate hikes, further pressured growth stocks. [1]

This triggered a short-lived rotation towards value stocks, perceived as more resilient in an inflationary environment. However, by late 2023, geopolitical tensions from the Ukraine conflict and ongoing supply chain disruptions exacerbated inflation fears. Investors, seeking refuge in established companies with a proven track record, flocked back to quality growth stocks. This flight to quality has propelled the momentum trade, particularly in sectors like semiconductors and technology. The PHLX Semiconductor Index (SOX) has surged over 20% since the beginning of July 2023. [2]

Riding the Momentum Wave: 3x Leveraged ETFs Take Center Stage

One of the most striking aspects of the current momentum surge is the massive inflow of funds into 3x leveraged ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) tracking semiconductors and technology stocks. According to a financial data provider , year-to-date net inflows into the Direxion Daily Semiconductor Sector Bull 3X ETF (SOXL) as of March 15, 2024, have surpassed $15 billion. [2] These ETFs amplify daily returns by three times, offering investors the potential for outsized gains (and losses). Their popularity reflects the strong investor appetite for capitalizing on the current upswing in these sectors.

This trend, however, raises concerns about potential overheating. Leveraged ETFs add an additional layer of risk – a downturn in the market can result in amplified losses for investors. Additionally, the heavy concentration in specific sectors exposes portfolios to higher volatility.

Beyond the Tech Bubble: Quality at the Forefront

While the current momentum may evoke memories of the tech bubble of the late 1990s, there are crucial distinctions. Unlike the bubble era, where speculation drove valuations to unsustainable levels, the current focus on technology and semiconductors is underpinned by strong fundamentals. The global semiconductor market is expected to reach a staggering $646 billion by 2026, driven by growth in areas like artificial intelligence and 5G technology.

Furthermore, the quality factor is playing a significant role in the momentum trade. Investors are prioritizing established companies with robust financials, proven track records, and consistent profitability. This focus on quality mitigates some of the risks associated with pure momentum chasing.

The Trade Against Momentum: A Look Beyond Quality

However, the dominance of quality names in the current market presents an interesting proposition – the potential for a counter-trend. If the Federal Reserve manages to bring inflation under control, and interest rates stabilize or even start to decline in the latter half of 2024, the leadership in the market could broaden beyond quality growth. This would create an opportunity for areas currently lagging, such as:

  • Small-Cap Stocks: The Russell 2000 Index, which tracks small-cap stocks, has significantly underperformed the S&P 500 in 2023 and so far in 2024. A more benign interest rate environment could unlock their potential, attracting investors seeking higher returns.
  • Mid-Cap Growth Stocks: Often overlooked by large-cap investors, mid-cap companies can offer a compelling blend of growth and established business models. A shift away from the current quality focus could see renewed interest in this segment.
  • Value Stocks: While the initial value rally faltered, a sustained decline in inflation and lower interest rates could reignite investor interest in undervalued companies with strong fundamentals.

However, this trade against the momentum is heavily contingent on a successful inflation-fighting campaign by the Fed. As of March 19, 2024, the future trajectory of inflation and interest rates remains uncertain but we will see in the FED meeting later this day their updated outlook.

Disclaimer: All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly. This is a hypothetical scenario for educational purposes only and should not be considered financial advice. Please consult a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions. This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. Please consult with a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

ETFs trade like stocks, are subject to investment risk, fluctuate in market value, and may trade at prices above or below the ETF’s net asset value (NAV). Upon redemption, the value of fund shares may be worth more or less than their original cost. ETFs carry additional risks such as not being diversified, possible trading halts, and index tracking errors.​ Stock investing includes risks, including fluctuating prices and loss of principal.

You can read more of my last work here:



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *