ETF Trades: Prepare for Seasonal Buying Spree
By: Christopher Mistal
October 08, 2020
For the past nineteen years we have been preparing Almanac Investor readers for the annual October ETF buying spree. This year is no exception, but before delving into October’s seasonalities, let’s do a quick review for new and seasoned followers alike. 
Every year while preparing the annual Almanac, we revisit and analyze our sector seasonalities (STA 2020 pages 92, 94 and 96) in depth in order to make adjustments for any new or developing trends. There have been a few minor revisions made to our Sector Seasonalities table in recent years, but for the most part, sector seasonality has been reasonably on track with many sectors producing the bulk of their annual gains during their traditionally favorable periods. Years of sector research allows us to specify whether the seasonality starts or finishes in the beginning third (B), middle third (M) or last third (E) of the month based upon the number of trading days in the month. 
The 2021 Almanac table follows. Both long and short trade opportunities are researched and the most statistically viable appear below. Because indexes are not directly tradable, highly correlated exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are chosen to execute trades. Performance over the last 5-, 10- and 15-year time periods is included. We prefer to focus on the 15-year average performance as this period has sufficient data to be seasonally significant. 
[Stock Trader’s Almanac 2021 Sector Seasonality Table]
These entry and exit points will be the basis for our seasonal trades over the coming year. They are guidelines, as we generally look to enter new positions before the start of the favorable period and exit before its end. Occasionally a trade is closed out well in advance of the seasonality’s end. An outsized advance may trigger a trade at the suggested auto-sell price (a price target based upon past historical performance of the specific seasonality) or should strength fail to materialize, a stop loss could be reached.
There are thirteen sector seasonalities that enter their favorable periods in October. The following trade ideas are made based upon these seasonalities. Currently, all buy limits are below current market levels. Should the market continue to struggle prior to our Seasonal MACD Buy Signal, we want to take advantage of any weakness or pullback to begin accumulating the following new positions. Any positions left open, will be considered when we issue our Seasonal MACD Buy Signal for DJIA, S&P 500 and NASDAQ.
Trades for October Sector Seasonalities
Transports enter their historically favorable season at the beginning of October and it runs until May. iShares DJ Transports (IYT) is attractive below current levels with a buy limit of $192.74. The stop loss is $171.54 and auto sell is $241.91. Top 5 holdings are: FedEx, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern and United Parcel Service. With nearly 70% of U.S GDP coming from consumers, seasonal strength in the consumer sector overlaps nicely with the transportation sector.
[iShares DJ Transports (IYT) Chart]
Over the last 15 years, Telecom has generated an average return of 6.0%, but for the last 5 years the average has improved to 7.1% during its bullish seasonality from the middle of October through around yearend. The top ETF within this sector is iShares DJ US Telecom (IYZ). Use a buy limit of $25.93 and stop loss of $23.08. If above average gains materialize, take profits at the auto sell of $30.23. Top 5 holdings are: Verizon, AT&T, Motorola, T-Mobile and Cisco Systems. Aggressive competition has hindered the sector in the past, but IYZ does boast a 12-month trailing yield of 2.96%. In the near-term, 5G rollout is likely to be costly, but in the longer-term 5G could replace traditional “wired” high-speed internet connections.
[iShares DJ US Telecom (IYZ) Chart]
Semiconductors come into favor near October’s end and remain so until the beginning of December. This trade has averaged 8.4% and 7.7% gains over the last 15- and 5-year periods, respectively. iShares PHLX Semiconductor (SOXX) is the top selection. Establish new positions with a buy limit of $285.48 and utilize a stop loss of $254.08. Take profits at the auto sell of $340.41. Top 5 holdings are: Broadcom, NVidia, Intel, QUALCOMM and Texas Instruments. These are the companies that design and supply the brains for the bulk of our favorite electronic devices; smart watches, smart phones, PCs, tablets, actions cameras, drones, refrigerators, basically you name it.
[iShares PHLX Semiconductor (SOXX) Chart]
Although consumer spending is spilt into two distinct sectors, Discretionary and Staples, their favorable seasons run concurrently from the beginning of October to the beginning of June in the following year. Over the past 15-years Discretionary has an average gain of 14.1% and Staples 7.9%. SPDR Consumer Discretionary (XLY) and SPDR Consumer Staples (XLP) are the preferred vehicles to execute these trades. XLY can be considered on dips below $139.40. An initial stop loss of $124.07 and an auto-sell at $174.96 are suggested. XLY Top 5 holdings are:, Home Depot, McDonald’s, NIKE, and Lowe’s. XLP could be purchased on dips below $61.55. Maintain the existing stop loss at $56.51 and use an auto-sell of $73.05. XLP Top 5 holdings are: Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Costco. XLP is an existing holding in the ETF Portfolio. If you already own, continue to hold the existing position, if you do not currently hold XLP, a new position can be considered on dips below the buy limit. 
[SPDR Consumer Discretionary (XLY) Chart]
[SPDR Consumer Staples (XLP) Chart]
The line between Broker/Dealer and Banking sectors is somewhat blurry with each sector averaging gains of 8.6% and 3.2% over the last 5 years, respectively. Instead of trading two smaller, somewhat less liquid ETFs, SPDR Financial (XLF) is the better choice. Use a buy limit of $22.72 and a stop loss of $20.22 once a position has been entered. The auto sell is $27.77. Its holdings cover all things financial from insurance companies to stock exchanges. Top 5 holdings are: Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.
[SPDR Financial (XLF) Chart]
Another area exhibiting a reasonable amount of overlap is the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical sectors, at least as far as many ETFs are concerned. Healthcare has racked up a 5.0% average return over the past five years while Pharmaceutical alone has been just 3.5%. SPDR Health Care (XLV) does an excellent job of representing both sectors and comes with the added bonus of holding several well-established biotechnology companies as well. XLV is attractive below current levels with a buy limit of $101.07. The stop loss is $89.95 and auto sell is $120.85. Top five holdings are: Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealth Group, Pfizer, Merck and Abbott Laboratories.
[SPDR Health Care (XLV) Chart]
Industrials have a favorable period that runs from the end of October through the middle of May with historical returns averaging 10.8% over the last 15- year period. Buy SPDR Industrials (XLI) with a buy limit of $74.22. Once purchased, set a stop loss of $66.06 and an auto sell of $90.46. Top 5 holdings are: Union Pacific, United Parcel Service, Honeywell, 3M Company and Lockheed Martin. Despite all the headwinds, the sector has proven resilient. The smallest of positive news or improvement in growth could unleash this sector.
[SPDR Industrials (XLI) Chart]
Materials have a favorable period that runs from the beginning of October through the beginning of May with historical returns of 13.8% over the last 15- year period. Buy SPDR Materials (XLB) with a buy limit of $60.77. Once purchased, set a stop loss of $54.09 and an auto sell of $76.07. Top 5 holdings are: Linde, Air Products & Chemicals, Sherman-Williams, Ecolab and Newmont. Similar to the Industrials sector, Materials have also held up well and could begin to rise at the first sign of improving growth.
[SPDR Materials (XLB) Chart]
Computer Tech comes into favor in early October and remains so until the beginning of January. This trade has averaged 8.2% and 7.2% gains over the last 15- and 5-year periods, respectively. SPDR Technology (XLK) is the top selection. Enter this trade with a buy limit of $108.06 and employ a stop loss of $96.17. Take profits at the auto sell of $128.61. Top 5 holdings are: Apple, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Visa and Mastercard. Apple and Microsoft combined account for 43.39% of total assets as of October 7 close. 
[SPDR Technology (XLK) Chart]
Real Estate has seen returns of 8.1% over the last 15 years from the end of October to the beginning of May. Vanguard REIT (VNQ) is our choice. Use a buy limit of $74.96 and a stop loss of $66.71 once a position has been entered. The auto sell is $89.13. Top 5 holdings are: Vanguard Real Estate II Index fund, American Tower, Prologis, Equinix and Crown Castle Intl.
[Vanguard REIT (VNQ) Chart]
Sector Rotation ETF Portfolio Updates
Some positions in the portfolio did weaken since last update. SPDR Gold (GLD) and SPDR Consumer Staples (XLP) edged modestly lower as the U.S. dollar strengthened in September and broad market weakness pulled XLP down. This area of weakness in the portfolio has been offset by renewed strength iShares NASDAQ Biotech (IBB) and SPDR Biotech (XBI). GLD, IBB and XBI are on Hold.
iShares Silver (SLV) is currently the sole blemish in the portfolio. Silver historically tends to be more volatile than gold and silver’s recent weakness is in sympathy to gold’s pullback. The Fed and numerous other central banks are suppling substantial amounts of liquidity to the financial system and interest rates are historically low. Inflation appears to be in check now, but that could change as massive monetary and fiscal stimulus continues to flow. 
ProShares UltraShort Bloomberg Crude (SCO) was just added to the portfolio today as the buy limit proved to conservative at the beginning of September. Crude oil rallied today due to hurricane threat. Once the threat abates, crude’s price will also likely soften. SCO is a Hold
[Almanac Investor Sector Rotation ETF Portfolio – October 7, 2020 Closes]