For style-neutral investors, the debate between value and growth may feel a little like being a water drinker watching the cola wars unfold—a mildly entertaining distraction with little real consequence. But a look at the last 15 years shows style leadership and the gap in performance may serve as an indicator of market direction for investors of all stripes.

As shown by the black line, when growth outperforms value by a significant margin, performance for the broader market (blue dashed line) has often stumbled during the following six months. Conversely, when value has led, forward returns for the broad index have benefited—such as in the first half of 2010 and late 2016.

While current data suggests solid economic growth in the months ahead, we would be more comfortable with the direction of the market if value was to once again rebound versus growth.