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.

 

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Black Swan Indicator at 25-year High

The CBOE SKEW index, commonly referred to as the ‘black swan’ indicator, just spiked to the highest level in the indicators 25-year history.

Is this as scary as it sounds?

What is the SKEW?

The SKEW is calculated by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), the same exchange that publishes the VIX.

Like the VIX, the SKEW is calculated from prices of S&P 500 out-of-the-money options. The SKEW Index basically attempts to quantify the odds of a black swan event (or S&P 500 tail risk).

CBOE identifies a black swan event as a two or more standard deviation move below the mean.

According to the CBOE, the black swan risk is negligible at a reading of 100. At 115, the risk is 6%, and at a level of 135, the risk of a black swan event is 12%. On Thursday the SKEW was at 151.22.

What is a Two Standard Deviation (Black Swan) Event?

Perhaps the easiest way to understand a two standard deviation event is with the help of Bollinger Bands.

The common default setting of the upper and lower Bollinger Band is two standard deviations above or below the 20-day SMA. The current spread between the S&P 500 20-day SMA and the Bollinger Bands is around 85 points (4%).

How Accurate is the SKEW?

The chart below captures the SKEW’s track record since the beginning of 2007.

Here are a few things worth noting:

  1. The SKEW has been moving higher since 2008, and it has taken ever-higher extremes to trigger a market reaction. It stands to reason that any stock market pullback (or black swan event) will not be commensurate to the 25-year SKEW extreme.
  2. The S&P 500 almost always reacts to SKEW extremes. Either it 1) pulls back almost instantly or 2) eventually gives back several days/weeks worth of gains.

Context is Key

The SKEW extreme appeared just as the S&P 500 is approaching an important inflection zone. The September 13 Profit Radar Report stated:

There is an open chart gap at 2,035.73. I am almost certain this gap will be filled (either during a wave 4 bounce or the subsequent rally). Depending on when we get there, 2,040 is an obvious candidate for a setup. It may be too obvious and subject to some sort of whipsaw, but 2,040 is the resistance level to watch.”

Best on the SKEW, there’s elevated risk of an upcoming pullback, especially around S&P 2,040.

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.

 

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.

 

Should We be Worried about ‘Smart Money’ Leaving Stocks?

Uh-oh. The ‘smart money’ is selling stocks. It rarely pays to bet against the smart money, which includes insiders and hedgers with deep pockets and big research budgets. Should we be worried about their stock market exodus?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”

Charles Dickens classic novel “A Tale of Two Cities” describes London and Paris during the French Revolution, but it could also be applied to Wall Street post 2009.

It is the ‘best of times’ as the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY), Dow Jones (NYSEArca: DIA) and Russell 2000 (NYSEArca: IWM) move from one all-time high to the next. Even the Nasdaaq (Nasdaq: QQQ) is within striking distance of its all-time high.

It is also the ‘worst of times’ for many permabears, who continue to trash talk every rally … and get crushed.

Some of you may remember my inflammatory message for stock market bears published in the July 13, 2014 Profit Radar Report:

Here’s a message for everyone vying to be the next Roubini: A watched pot doesn’t boil and a watched bubble doesn’t burst. The stock market is not yet displaying the classic warning signs of a major top. There will be a correction, but the bull market won’t be over until most bears turn into bulls or the media stops listening to crash prophets.”

My bullish conviction was rooted primarily in extreme investor pessimism (reflected by the following July 2013 headlines) and the absence of the one ingredient that foreshadowed the 1987, 2000 and 2007 crashes (more details here).

  • MarketWatch: “If ever there were a time for a stock sell signal, it’s now”
  • CNBC: “Market will crash, just don’t know catalyst: Faber”
  • Reuters: “Billionaire activist Carl Icahn says ‘time to be cautious’ on U.S. stocks?”
  • CNBC: “I’m selling 6 times more than buying: Wilbur Ross”

Today, we are back at (or near) all-time highs and read headlines such as: “Why the smart money is bailing out of the bull market.”

Indeed, the ‘smart money’ is selling stocks as the ‘dumb money’ is rushing in.

Is this bearish? If so, how bearish is it?

Here is a look at six different sentiment gauges consistently tracked by the Profit Radar Report.

Of the six Profit Radar Report staples only four show extreme optimism:

Newsletter writers polled by Investors Intelligence (II) are the most bullish since June 2014 and active investment managers (polled by NAAIM) haven’t been as bullish since November 2013.

The VIX is low, but needs to shed another 20% before reaching last year’s extreme.

The CBOE equity put/call ratio and CBOE SKEW are only in midly bearish territory.

The media seems somewhat suspicious of new highs, but not nearly as bearish as in June/July 2014.

To be fair, a number of ancillary sentiment gauges match the kind of sentiment extremes seen in December 2010 and 2013.

My interpretation is that current gains will soon be given back, but any correction now or in the near future is likely to be followed by new recovery highs later on.

What’s the benefit of following the above six sentiment gauges?

Here is a more detailed track record published in the the December 2014 Sentiment Picture (the biggest reason to worry about stocks right now is listed at the bottom of this article):

Throughout 2014 many analysts, market timers, the media and ‘experts’ opined that the bull market is on borrowed time, largely because investor sentiment has been extremely bullish. Here are two examples:

  • Title: The boys who cried wolf: Crash prophets on the rise – Yahoo on May 2:

    Article excerpt: “The Dow Jones closed at an all-time high, which doesn’t change the views of the collection of Cassandras calling for a stock market crash. This group, including esteemed figures like Jeremy Grantham and Marc Faber have been emerging from their bomb shelters with relative frequency over the last month to reiterate their bearish views and insist they weren’t wrong with earlier calls, just early.”

  • Title: If ever the stock market flashed a ‘sell’ signal, it’s now – MarketWatch on July 9

    Article excerpt: “Sentiment indicators such as Investors Intelligence are at historic highs (that is bearish), and the RSI Wilder indicator is telling us the market is seriously overbought. Yes, the market can still go higher, but it’s on borrowed time. Don’t believe me? When you are standing 17,000 points in the air at the top of Dow Mountain, and the market is priced for perfection, there is nowhere to go but down.”

This widespread display of pessimism has been baffling and unfounded based on our set of sentiment gauges. At no point in 2014 did optimism reach levels suggestive of a major top. As the small selection of recent Sentiment Picture observations shows, an objective and in depth analysis of investor sentiment has persistently pointed to higher prices.

November 30 Sentiment Picture: “Investor sentiment is not at the kind of extremes usually associated with major market tops. Seasonality may draw prices lower temporarily, but the majority of sentiment gauges point towards higher prices later this year and/or early next year.”

October 31 Sentiment Picture: “In short, investor sentiment allows for further up side.”

September 25 Sentiment Picture: “Few sentiment gauges were at extremes on September 19, when the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq reached their new highs. If this selloff is commensurate to the lack of sentiment extremes at the actual high, it should be on the shallow side.”

August 29 Sentiment Picture: “The overall sentiment picture is fractured, and void of the ‘all in’ mentality seen near major market tops. Isolated extremes cause only small pullbacks here or there.”

The December Sentiment Picture shows a small up tick in ‘dumb money confidence’ (AAII, NAAIM) and complacency by option traders (CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio). The CBOE SKEW is elevated.

Those readings could contribute to a pullback, but optimism is not pronounced enough to be indicative of a major top.”

The Biggest Reason to Worry about Stocks Right Now

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.

‘Black Swan Risk Canary’ Soars to All-Time High

Many times catchy headlines do not deliver any content even remotely as interesting as the title. But this catch headline is backed up by one of the most accurate stock market indicators in recent years.

What’s the ‘Black Swan Canary?’ It’s the CBOE SKEW Index.

The SKEW Index is calculated by the CBOE. The CBOE, the same outfit responsible for the CBOE VIX.

According to CBOE, the SKEW Index is designed to measure the tail risk (= risk of outlier returns two or more standard deviations below the mean) of the S&P 500.

The SKEW Index basically estimates the probability of a large decline or ‘Black Swan’ event.

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Similar to the CBOE VIX or VIX Volatility Index (NYSEArca: VXX), the price of the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) tail risk is calculated from the price of S&P 500 out-of-the-money options.

The SKEW typically ranges from 115 to 135. Readings of 135+ suggest a 12% chance of a large decline (2 standard deviations). Readings of 115 or less suggest a 6% chance of a large decline.

The highest SKEW reading was recorded on October 16, 1998 and was matched by last Friday’s spike to 146 (the chart below was originally published in Sunday’s Profit Radar Report).

Here are probably the two most salient points about the SKEW/S&P 500 relationship:

  1. The SKEW has established a sequence of higher highs. It has taken progressively higher SKEW readings to get the S&P 500 in trouble (134 in April 2010 was enough to ‘cause’ the ‘Flash Crash’. 143 in December 2014 only led to a minor eventual pullback).
  2. Nevertheless, an elevated SKEW has tripped the S&P 500 (at least to some extent) every time. If this track record continues, Friday’s SKEW spike should cause some choppiness.

Although the 2010 and 2011 corrections were quite nasty, the label ‘Black Swan Index’ has been misleading in recent years.

This time may be different, but the SKEW has been one of the most accurate indicators in an environment that’s fooled many other trusted gauges.

The SKEW suggests a bumpy ride ahead with limited gains and elevated risk.

I always recommend looking at more than one indicator (I personally monitor various indicators from three different categories: Sentiment, seasonality and technicals).

The SKEW’s meaning is nicely enhanced by a simple Dow Jones (NYSEArca: DIA) chart. Right now a rare Dow formation offers clear levels of ruin and opportunity.

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.

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

Market Pulse: Is Investor Sentiment Really ‘Dangerously Bullish’?

How bullish are investors really? There are different types of investors, individual investors, institutional investors, traders, smart money, dumb money … and there’s a gauge for each group. Here’s a look at six different investor sentiment indicators.

The market has been stuck in yet another waiting pattern, so we might as well use the time to look at the forces that may (or may not) jolt stocks out of their waiting loop.

According to many, overheated investor sentiment will break the stale mate and send stocks spiraling lower.

There’s just one flaw with this line of reasoning. Sentiment is not overheated.

The Profit Radar Report continuously analyzes how investors feel about stocks and publishes a comprehensive sentiment picture once a month.

The chart below, which plots the following six sentiment gauges against the S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY), was published in the August Sentiment Picture on August 29:

  • CBOE SKEW
  • Equity put/call ratio
  • CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)
  • NAAIM survey of active money managers
  • II survey of investment advisors
  • AAII survey of individual investors

Where are the sentiment extremes?

There’s only one: Last week 51.92% of individual investors were bullish. That’s the highest reading since December 24, 2013. The red lines highlight other 50%+ spikes and how the S&P 500 reacted.

Yes, the bullish December AAII reading was followed by a January pullback, but there’s a big difference between today and December: No other indicator is confirming August’s AAII spout of enthusiasm, and AAII bulls are back down to 44.70%.

There was one more extreme not illustrated by the chart: The percentage of bearish investment advisors polled by II dropped to 13.3%, the lowest reading since 1987. This is a legitimate extreme.

The August 29 Sentiment Picture summed up the big picture sentiment situation as follows:

Perhaps most noteworthy is that we continue to see isolated sentiment extremes, but the source of such extremes only rotates (the SKEW and put/call ratio in July, the AAII poll in August), it doesn’t compound. We see different gauges hit overheated levels at different times, but never all at the same time.

The overall sentiment picture is fractured, and void of the ‘all in’ mentality seen near major market tops.

Isolated extremes cause only small pullbacks here or there.

Based on sentiment, we could see 1) a continued grind higher interrupted by the occasional 3-10% correction or 2) a prolonged period of choppy sideways trading.”

Bottom line, sentiment is not extreme enough for a big scale market top.

The most important market breadth indicator, which correctly foreshadowed the 1987, 2000 and 2007 crashes, also doesn’t show the deterioration needed for another crash.

More details about this must-know indicator can be found here: How to Discern a Major Market Top

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.

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

Equity Put/Call Ratio at 41-Month Low, but Risk of ‘Black Swan’ Event Limited

Last week the CBOE Equity Put/Call ratio slipped as low as 0.43, the lowest level since January 2011. Similar readings in April 2010 and April 2012 led to nasty sell offs? But something is different this time.

Last week the CBOE Equity Put/Call ratio plunged to 0.43, the lowest reading since January 2011. This wasn’t just a one-day fluke as the 5-day SMA fell as low as 0.518, also a 41-month extreme.

A ratio of 0.43 means that option traders bought 2.3 calls (bullish option bet) for every put (bearish option bet). Option traders don’t have a ‘smart money’ reputation.

The chart below, featured in the June 11 Profit Radar Report, plots the S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) against the 5-and 10-day SMA of CBOE Equity Put/Call ratio.

As the dashed red lines highlight, low put/call ratio levels led to S&P 500 (NYSEArca: SPY) weakness more often than not.

Is the Put/Call Ratio Warning of a Crash?

Lately, there’s been much talk about a crash or major correction. Does the current equity put/call ratio foreshadow such a crash or correction?

Looking at the put/call ratio in isolation one could conclude that there’s a high chance of a 1%+ correction. Why?

Similar equity put/call ratio readings in April 2010 and April 2012 were followed by nasty sell offs (see red shadows).

But let’s expand our analysis to include the CBOE SKEW Index. The SKEW Index basically estimates the probability of a large decline (2 standard deviations or ‘Black Swan’ event).

Readings of 135+ suggest a 12% chance of a large decline. Readings of 115 or less suggest a 6% chance of a large decline. In short, the higher the SKEW, the greater the risk for stocks.

Last week the SKEW finished at 127.78, which is above average, but well below its January peak of 139.62.

The April 2010 and April 2012 highs saw SKEW readings of 134 and 139 (shaded areas).

The relative SKEW anemia softens the generally bearish message of the put/call ratio, but it doesn’t eliminate all the risk.

The Profit Radar Report’s 2014 S&P 500 Forecast (published on January 15), projected a pre-summer high at S&P 1,950. Last week the S&P reached 1,950 and pulled back. What does this mean for the rest of the year?

A complimentary look at the updated 2014 S&P 500 Forecast is available here:

Updated 2014 S&P 500 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.

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