Crowd Psychology: Bears Needed to Get Burned

The Profit Radar Report monitors dozens of indicators to compile a broad-based and educated forecast. All those indicators fall into one of the following four categories:

  • Supply & Demand (Liquidity)
  • Technical Analysis
  • Investor Sentiment (Crowd Psychology)
  • Seasonalities, Cycles & Patterns

The September 2 Profit Radar Report included a detailed analysis of investor sentiment (called the Sentiment Picture). Based on sentiment, the September 4 Profit Radar Report stated that: “A fakeout breakout would burn a lot of premature bears, and may be just what is needed to clear the air for another leg lower.”

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Business Daily says: “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

Below is a reprint of the entire Sentiment Picture:

August Sentiment Picture (Published September 2, 2019)

The July Sentiment Picture (published August 3) concluded that: “Short-term sentiment gauges are nearing a point where a bounce becomes likely. We’ve seen many bounces turn into spirited rallies (and this may happen again), but longer-term bullishness allows for additional losses after any bounce.”

The S&P 500 found a low the next day, but bounces (thus far) lacked escape velocity and remained within a trading range.

The following longer-term sentiment polls went from bullish to bearish (bearish considering how close the S&P 500 is to its recent all-time high):

  • National Association of Active Investment Managers (NAAIM)
  • Investors Intelligence (II)
  • American Association for Individual Investors (AAII)

The dash green arrows highlight when any of the above-mentioned polls showed similar readings over the past 56 months. Most of them occurred near a significant low.

Since inception of the AAII poll, sentiment (as measured by the AAII bull/bear ratio) was as bearish when the S&P 500 was within 5% of a 52-week high 9 other time (the only such instance in the 21st century was in April 2005). The worst return was 1 month later (S&P 500 down 44% of the time), the best return was 3, 6, and 12 month later (S&P 500 up every time).

According to Lipper, investors yanked more than $40 billion from equity funds over the past weeks (that’s 0.3% of total equity assets) and 2% over the past year. This is the biggest exodus out of stocks since 2016 and nearly as pronounced as in 2002. This is not a short-term timing tool, but strongly suggest that a deeper correction would be a buying opportunity.

The sentiment-based conclusion made last month (“longer-term bullishness allows for additional losses after any bounce”) has become less likely.

A change of character would have to occur for stocks to fall further despite a number of bearish (bearish relative to how close the S&P 500 is to its all-time high) sentiment gauges.

Short-term sentiment indicators are neutral.

Continued updates, projections, buy/sell recommendations are available via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s evaluation of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, 24.52% in 2015, 52.26% in 2016, and 23.39% in 2017.

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Some Investor Sentiment Gauges Reach Panic Levels

For the fourth time since October 2014, the S&P 500 is testing the mid-1,800s.

That’s right about where investors threw in the towel before, and with regret watched the S&P move higher.

Will it be the same this time around?

The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the CBOE Equity put/call ratio, the percentage of bullish advisors and newsletter-writing colleagues polled by Investors Intelligence (II), and the percentage of bullish retail investors (polled by the American Association for Individual Investors – AAII).

As a composite, those three groups are about as bearish as they were near prior S&P lows. In fact, the CBOE Equity put/call ratio soared to a multi-year high on Friday, and the percentage of bullish investors is at a 10-year low.

Investor sentiment suggests that stocks are ripe for a rally, but this would be the fourth time the S&P is following the same script (bounce in the 1,800s). Is it time for a curveball?

The January 19 Profit Radar Report warned that a break below support at 1,870 would result in a quick drop to 1,820 and provided a long-term perspective on the S&P 500 (has a major market top been struck or not?) along with a short-term forecast.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

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Detailed Investor Sentiment Comparison Between 2007 and 2015

Once a month, the Profit Radar Report publishes a detailed analysis of investor sentiment (called Sentiment Picture).

The October 2015 Sentiment Picture tackled the question whether current investor sentiment is indicative of a major market top.

To find out, the Sentiment Picture provided a side-by-side comparison of investor sentiment at and leading up to the 2007 top with current sentiment.

Before we get to the 2007/2015 comparison, allow me to fine tune expectations. There are things sentiment analysis can and cannot do.

Sentiment analysis (like any single indicator) is not infallible and shouldn’t be used as stand alone indicator. The Profit Radar Report always looks at the combined message of supply/demand, technical analysis, seasonality and sentiment.

Sentiment, however can help gauge the probability of a major top or bottom. To illustrate, the July 24 Sentiment Picture attempted to answer the same question: Are there enough bulls to form a major market top?

It stated that: “Considering that stocks just were near all-time highs, sentiment is quite subdued. The lack of real investor enthusiasm, has continually pointed to new highs, and does so again this month. The question is when a bigger correction will occur.”

The ‘bigger correction’ started shortly thereafter, but stocks are trading near their 2015 highs once again.

The September 24 Sentiment Picture noted extreme bearishness and proposed that: “Sentiment is pointing towards a buying opportunity. In fact, purely based on overall sentiment, stocks should be closing in on a tradable low.”

That tradable low occurred three days later at S&P 1,871.

Are There Enough Bulls for a Major Market Top?

Below is the sentiment chart featured in the October 29, 2015 Sentiment Picture. This chart plots the S&P 500 against six different sentiment gauges (the actual sentiment analysis includes dozens more indicators):

  • CBOE SKEW Index
  • CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio
  • CBOE VIX
  • National Association of Active Money Managers (NAAIM) equity exposure
  • Percentage of bullish advisors polled by Investors Intelligence (II)
  • Percentage of bullish retail investors polled by the American Association for Individual Investors (AAII)

The second chart highlights investor sentiment surrounding the 2007 high.

  • In 2007, the VIX was trading near 16. This was 50% lower than the August high (near 30), but 60% above the 2007 low (near 10).
  • The CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio (5-day SMA) was towards the lower end of its range.
  • The SKEW wasn’t extremely high, but towards the upper end of its range.
  • Investment advisors and newsletter writers (polled by Investors Intelligence – II) were extremely bullish.
  • Retail investors (polled by the American Association for Individual Investors – AAII) were extremely bullish.
  • Active investment managers (polled by the National Association of Active Investment Managers – NAAIM) were bullish.

In October 2015, investors are not as bullish as they were in 2007. This becomes particularly obvious when looking at the AAII, II and NAAIM crowd.

Since the October sentiment picture was published, investors have become a bit more bullish. Perhaps even bullish enough for another pullback (there was also some significant internal weakness last week), but investor enthusiasm as not as pronounced as it was in 2007 or other historic market tops.

Investor sentiment is just one of the four powerful price movers monitored by the Profit Radar Report. Here is a (free) detailed look at supply and demand (or liquidity): Is the Stock Market Running out of Willing Buyers?

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

Retail Investors Scared of Market Selloff

Retail investors do not like stocks right now. Only 21.11% of retail investors are bullish (based on the latest survey by the American Association for Individual Investors – AAII.

I’m not a big fan of the AAII poll (the results are rather temperamental), but the poll has persistently shown an unusually large measure of pessimism for months.

Retail investor sentiment started to sour in late 2014, even though the S&P 500 eked out a few more all-time highs in 2015.

The S&P is still within a few percent of its all-time highs, but AAII sentiment is at panic levels.

Broad excessive bearish tends to limit down side risk and increase the odds of further up side.

I wouldn’t recommend trading based on the results of this temperamental sentiment gauge, but I will carefully monitor other sentiment indicators to discern if pessimism is engrained deep enough to move stocks higher.

The Profit Radar Report consistently monitors dozens of sentiment indicators.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

2011 vs 2015 – Sentiment Comparison

Over the past two weeks we explored two developments:

  1. Stocks had to rally to flush out premature bears
  2. 2015 is looking a lot like 2011

A couple of sentiment indicators (such as AAII poll) showed extreme pessimism recently.

2011 saw an 18% drop starting in July.

The question for right now is this: Is there too much pessimism for a summer correction?

The first chart shows sentiment in 2011. The gray bar highlights June 2011.

By mid-June, investors polled by the American Association for Individual Investors (AAII) and Investors Intelligence (II) had become quite pessimistic. Only 24% and 37% of investors were bullish.

A 7.8% S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) rally from June 16 – July 7 relieved much of that pessimism, but it didn’t take a spike into extreme optimism for stocks to plunge in July.

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A look at current sentiment shows a similar scenario.

Optimism was quite low (extremely low for the AAII survey), but recovered, no doubt due to the 58-point rally from the June 15 low.

Based on the 2011 analogy, stocks may rally into early July. An updated look at the 2011 vs 2015 analogy is available here: 2015 is Looking a Lot Like 2011

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

Has the Market Fooled Enough Bears to Tank?

By some measures, investor sentiment turned extremely bearish last week.

Only 20% of retail investors surveyed by the American Association for Individual Investors (AAII) were bullish on stocks, the lowest level since April 2013.

Headlines like the following dominated financial news sites:

  • “Wedbush: Stock market is at major top” – Yahoo!Finance
  • “Stockman: Stocks and bonds will crash soon” – Yahoo!Finance
  • “Low VIX points to tumble ahead for stocks: UBS” – Barron’s
  • “Irrational exuberance is dooming the stock market” – MarketWatch
  • “Beware: Bull market flashing warning signs” – CNBC
  • “S&P 500 rally thins and it’s worrying market analysts” – Bloomberg
  • “Why you should care that Robert Prechter is warning of a ‘sharp collapse’ in stocks” – MarketWatch

The June 10 Profit Radar Report commented regarding those developments (and especially the last two headlines):

Prechter has predicted a sharp collapse literally every single month since late 2009, and it’s unlikely to occur when you see it featured on the Yahoo!Finance homepage.

We’ve been watching the rally thin and become narrower since April, but when the media starts to pick up on such nuances, the information usually isn’t worth too much anymore (an interesting bullish twist of this thinning market was discussed in this June 9 article).

There appear to be too many bears out there right now to send stocks significantly lower. A push to 2,140+ may be needed to flush them out.”

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Perhaps somewhat anecdotally, but nevertheless telling, my article titled “Will the market rally to flush out a horde of premature bears?” (published on July 12 on MarketWatch) got very little attention. It just wasn’t bearish enough to attract attention.

Two of my other articles (with neutral or somewhat bullish titles) on the other hand quickly made it into the top 5 most popular article list at MarketWatch.

I’m no genius, but I’m learning that the market is highly unlikely to crash when everyone expects it. A watched pot doesn’t boil.

After all, this is not the first time we’ve been there. I.e. Sep 18, 2013: Who or what can kill this QE bull Market? or July 25, 2014: Bears cry wolf – Everyone wants to be the next Roubini.

The 4-day, 50-point S&P 500 rally has no doubt caused an uncomfortable squeeze for committed bears. I would like to see additional gains, which would likely set up a nice opportunity to short the S&P 500 into July/August.

This opportunity will likely come at a time when fewer people expect it.

A recent article highlighted the similarities between 2011 and 2015 (2011 saw a 20% summer meltdown). Sunday’s Profit Radar Report featured a revealing investor sentiment comparison between June 2011 and June 2015.

You may access this comparison instantly here. It may also be the topic of an article for next week.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

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Stock Market Money Flow Check

Every once and a while it’s a good idea to check equity money flows, kind of like a GPS for what the money is doing.

Here’s a series of three charts to help us do just that.

1) Asset Allocation

In March, exposure to stocks (according to the American Association for Individual Investors asset allocation survey) soared to the highest level since the 2007 financial crisis.

This sounds scary, but the long-term asset allocation chart helps put things into perspective. Leading up to the 2000 market top, investors had up to 77% of their portfolio in stocks, and up to 69% in 2007.

2) Commercial Traders

The chart below shows the net S&P 500 e-mini futures contracts held by commercial traders. On balance, commercial traders are more or less neutral.

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3) VIX, Put/Call Ratio, SKEW

Chart #3 plots the S&P 500 against three different sentiment indicators:

  • CBOE SKEW: The SKEW was designed to measure the risk of a ‘Black Swan’ event. Higher SKEW = higher risk.
  • CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio: This ratio shows to what extent option traders favor call options over put option. Lower readings = more optimism = more risk.
  • CBOE Volatility Index (VIX): The mix shows the market’s expectation of 30-day volatility. Lower VIX = Elevated risk. The VIX has lost much of its contrarian indicator mojo starting in 2012.

The CBOE SKEW (5-day SMA to smooth out daily swings) is near the lower end of a two-year range.

The CBOE equity put/call ratio dropped to 0.46 yesterday, a 1-year low. The 5-day SMA is not as low, but still at the lower end of an eight-month range.

The VIX is back to what used to be considered the ‘danger zone.’

Summary:

Money is flowing into equities, but there are no screaming investor sentiment extremes. Anyone claiming that stocks will crash because any one single sentiment gauge is at financial crisis levels is taking things out of context.

Detailed investor sentiment analysis is available to Profit Radar Report subscribers.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.