Amid this week’s market tumult, investors have dumped shares of media companies, another sign that the stocks which helped power the broader market over the last seven years are falling out of favor.
Some of the stocks rebounded on Thursday, but most are down sharply this week amid a 2.7% drop in the S&P 500 Index. Time Warner Inc. slid 9.9% this week. Walt Disney Co. dropped 3.8% after closing on Wednesday at its lowest level since October 2014. Its shares are now off 22% during the past three months.
Viacom Inc. is down 25% so far this week after sinking 21% on Tuesday. CBS Corp. is down 6.9% on the week. Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., which until 2013 was part of the same company as Wall Street Journal-owner News Corp ., is down 8.5% this month.
The lagging media sector is one whose outsized returns over the past seven years may be starting to get strained, investors say. Media stocks returned 315% from the beginning of 2009 through the end of 2015, compared with 163% on the S&P 500 index.
Media, along with sectors like technology, financials, and health care, have led the bull market for most of its run, but such stocks may take a back seat going forward, investors say. Those sectors have been among the worst performers as the S&P fell 10.5% so far this year. Instead, it’s been energy, materials, and industrial stocks that have outperformed the broader market.
“I think a big part of what’s happened year-to-date has been a capitulation of the leadership of this bull market,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management.
That may be a bad omen for the broader market, which until recently had been held up by a small group of stocks whose large market values and steady gains helped prop the market up last year, even as a larger group of companies were on the decline.
Some of the media companies have been hit by concerns over the loss of subscribers as customers jettison costly cable packages. On Tuesday, Viacom reported quarterly revenue that missed analyst expectations, and the media firm lowered its estimates for growth in subscription fees this year.
Questions about the future of cable pushed Disney shares down on Wednesday, even as the company reported an uptick in ESPN subscribers the previous day. Disney mentioned subscriber losses at ESPN last summer, helping spark a meltdown in media stocks as investors grew concerned about cord-cutting.
Still, even as those trends continue to play out, shareholders of media companies are getting hit by a nearer-term challenge that transcends the sector: a loss of momentum.
“Momentum is a very effective strategy but it’s become a lot less effective over the past six months,” said Russ Koesterich, global chief investment strategist at BlackRock. “I do think there is something broader going on here.”