The indices just closed out their best January since 1997, and the higher trading volume we have witnessed over the past several weeks has provided a solid boost to my buy list for February. The market’s 3.3% gain in January may be impressive, but in just the past month, the stocks I’m following closely — we’ll discuss them below — are up an average of nearly 10% for the year.
The reason why these stocks were able to pull ahead of the market is because this strong January didn’t treat all stocks equally. You see, the bottom-line numbers don’t tell you the whole story. If you have a market where the majority of stocks are moving higher, you get a rising tide that “lifts all boats,” and the average stock performs modestly higher. However, when you have a choppy market — one where the winners are up big and the losers are getting slammed — it looks quite different.
Right now, we’re experiencing the latter. More than 100 of S&P 500 companies were down in January despite the strong overall market momentum. And the reason why there is such a disparity between the winners and the losers is because investors are increasingly focusing on fundamentals and rewarding them.
I knew that as the market narrowed, companies with strong fundamentals, unique products and good market recognition would lead the pack. And sure enough, these companies are diverging sharply from the rest of the companies in their industry. For example:
Deckers Outdoor (NASDAQ:DECK) — maker of UGG boots and outdoor brand Teva — is up 14%, and Nike (NYSE:NKE) is up 7% year-to-date. Skechers (NYSE:SKX) also us doing better, posting 11% upside. But Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) is the huge winner in the sector, up a whopping 37%.