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The Only Thing Tapered in 2013 Is Homebuilders

Tickers in this article: XHB
"If the economy grows, housing gets better, quicker." -- Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Even though "selfie" appears to be the word of the year in 2013, those involved in financial markets know the award should really go to the word "taper." After bringing up the idea back in May, there isn't a single moment where the term is not mentioned in the media.

Overhyped? Probably. The Federal Reserve got scared by the yield spike that occurred starting in May, citing "tighter financial conditions" specifically due to the bond selloff and the negative impact that would have on the economy in September.

Yet, here we are, and not only has there been no taper in the Fed's stimulus, but more bond buying may be on the way thanks to Janet Yellen next year.

Why is it so hard for the Fed to back away? Put simply, because its credibility is at stake in terms of forcing reflation through its unemployment and inflation targets. Both are still very far away from stated goals, and it's not clear if quantitative easing is the answer.

Everyone focuses on the question of when tapering will occur, but the real question should be whether it matters. After all, those areas most sensitive to reflation and economic activity are failing to confirm stock market exuberance.

The only thing tapered in 2013 is homebuilder optimism and bets on the biggest driver of reflation.

Take a look below at the price ratio of the SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF relative to the S&P 500. As a reminder, a rising price ratio means the numerator/XHB is outperforming (up more/down less) than the denominator/S&P 500. A falling ratio means the opposite. Note that homebuilders have lagged essentially for all of 2013, and fail to show any real strength to come thus far.

This remains one of the larger disconnects happening within the stock market. Equities in the U.S. have had an immense run, but it has not been led by real economic drivers and reflation. This is traditionally abnormal, and begs the question of just how long stocks can remain elevated without a pickup in economic activity and bets on future housing.

From that perspective, being nimble continues to be important. Don't taper risk management in favor of the bull narrative, with which housing has disagreed all year.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.