ASX Leading Sectors

The ASX 200 broke resistance at 6800, signaling a fresh advance. Expect retracement to test the new support level. Respect would strengthen the bull signal, confirming a fresh advance.

ASX 200 Quarterly

At the same time, fundamentals are distinctly bearish, with falling retail sales and dwindling GDP growth. So, what sectors are driving the index?

A comparison of the ASX 200 sector indices shows that the advance is led by Healthcare and Information Technology sectors, while the laggards are Financials, Utilities and Telecommunications.

ASX Sector Comparison

Top performers in Healthcare (with forward price-earnings ratio where available) are:

  • Polynovo (PNV) – negative eps
  • Clinuvel (CUV) – 79
  • Pro Medicus (PME) – 137
  • Nanosonics (NAN) – 158
  • Resmed (RMD) – 55
  • CSL (CSL) – 49
  • Fisher & Paykel Health (FPH) – 55

ASX 200 Healthcare Top Performers

In Information Technology, top performers are:

  • Afterpay (APT) – negative eps (forward pe 476)
  • Nearmap (NEA) – negative eps
  • Bravura (BVS) – 37
  • Appen (APX) – 58
  • Xero (XRO) – 5998 (forward pe 270)
  • Altium (ALU) – 63

ASX 200 Information Technology Top Performers

The graph below compares PE Ratios on the y-axis to required Annual Growth in earnings on the x-axis. The curve plots the compound annual growth (CAGR) required for a 20-year income stream to deliver a 12.5% return on investment.

PE Ratio compared to Expected Growth

What this illustrates is that PE Ratios above 50 should be treated with caution as they assume the ability to maintain high CAGR in earnings (e.g. above 20%) for long periods. Even when growing off a low base that can be difficult to achieve.

Bottom line: many stocks in these sectors (Healthcare and IT) are highly-priced and vulnerable to strong draw-downs.

S&P 500 Price-Earnings suggest time to buy

The forward Price-Earnings (PE) Ratio for the S&P 500, depicted by the blue line on the chart below, recently dipped below 20. In 2014 to 2105, PEs above 20 warned that stocks were overpriced.

We can see from the green and orange bars on the chart that the primary reason for the dip in forward PE is more optimistic earnings forecasts for 2017.

S&P500 Earnings Per Share and Forward PE Ratio

We can also see, from an examination of the past history, that each time forward PE dipped below 20 it was an opportune time to buy.

History also shows that each time the forward PE crossed to above 20 it was an opportune time to stop buying. Not necessarily a sell signal but a warning to investors to tighten their stops.

Sector Performance

Quarterly sales figures are only available to June 2016 but there are two stand-out sectors that achieved quarterly year-on-year sales growth in excess of 10 percent: Consumer Discretionary and Health Care.

S&P500 Quarterly Sales Growth

Interestingly, apart from Energy where there has been a sharp drop in earnings, sectors with the highest forward PE (based on estimated operating earnings) are the defensive sectors: Consumer Staples and Utilities. While Consumer Discretionary and Health Care are more middle-of-the-pack at 16.7 and 15.4 respectively.

S&P500 Forward PE Ratio by Sector