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.

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

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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.

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.

This Chart Should SCARE Every BEAR

Bears finally got 18 days of hope as the S&P 500 lost as much as 9.8% and expectations of the long-awaited market crash seemed to finally pan out. However, this may be just a cruel déjà vu. Here’s a chart that should scare every bear.

People often look for strength in numbers, but on Wall Street, ‘strength in numbers’ – also known as crowd behavior – tends to backfire.

Here is a look at one interesting chart. The chart plots the S&P 500 against the average exposure to US equity markets reported by members of the National Association of Active Investment Managers (NAAIM).

I’m a chart and numbers guy, but the message of this chart is probably more powerful if we emphasize the emotions behind the numbers, rather than just the numbers.

Last week, active money managers slashed their US equity exposure to 9.97%, the lowest reading since September 28, 2011.

In 2011, the S&P 500 fell as much as 21%. Last week money managers bailed before the S&P even lost 10%. They flat out panicked.

Why did money managers panic?

Were they right to panic?

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There may be a myriad of reasons why money managers decided to heavy-handedly hit the sell button, … but here is my interpretation (valued at 2 cents or more):

Obviously money managers were scared. Scared of what? The ‘big one!’

Tucked away in their memory banks were sell in May headlines such as:

  • CNBC: “This chart shows the market is a ticking time bomb” – June 11
  • Yahoo Finance: “Beware: 2014 is looking a lot like 2007” – May 22
  • CNBC: “I’m worried about a crisis bigger than 2008: Dr Doom” – May 8

The S&P 500 rallied as much as 200 points following those doom and gloom headlines. The normal reaction would be to dismiss crash calls as wrong, but money managers simply must have labeled them as ‘premature.’

The level of panic seen at the October 15 low was enough to propel the S&P as much as 140 points.

Was their panic justified? In other words, despite this bounce, did the ‘big bad bear market’ start at the September highs?

Has the “Big Bad Bear Market’ Started?

The easy and straight-forward conclusion based on the fact that money managers appear to have expected this ‘bear market’ is this:

Sure, there are plenty of reasons why stocks should roll over, but a watched pot doesn’t boil. Bear markets are rarely anticipated by the masses.

There are also persuasive reasons why this bull market has more time left. We just discussed one. Another is bullish seasonality and the absence of the most reliable bear market trigger I’m aware of.

After extensive research, I found an indicator that correctly warned of the 1987, 2000 and 2007 tops, and at the same time projected new highs in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. More details here.

It is possible that the October panic lows will be tested once more, but the weight of evidence suggests that the bull market is not yet over. Short-term, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones are bumping against important resistance levels. A move above those levels is needed to unlock higher targets.

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.

The Three Biggest Bull Market Mistakes of Market Pros (Including Myself)

Have you ever felt like a fool for selling at the worst of times? This article won’t get your money back, but it’ll put a smile on your face and show that the financial pros’ timing may be even worse than the average Joe’s.

It’s said that everybody is a genius in a bull market. If that’s still true, we must not be in a bull market (the geniuses are dwindling).

A few days ago, the bull market genius gene by-passed me and put me on a waiting list, but it’s more fun to write about the blunders of others, so we’ll start there (more about my search for the genius gene later).

If you don’t feel like an investing genius all the time, you’ll enjoy these three tales of bad timing (one of them on my expense).

Airlines on Fire

Airline stocks have been on fire. Below is a chart of Delta Air Lines. We have to show an individual airline stock chart, because there are barely any airline mutual funds and no airline ETFs.

In fact, the last airline ETF (Guggenheim Airline ETF – FAA) was closed not too long ago. Since we are talking about timing, bad timing in particular, if you had to point out what month the Guggenheim’s airline ETF got canned, which would it be?

The announcement to close the airline ETF went out on February 19, 2013 (see arrow on chart), just before Delta and other airlines stocks started to soar.

The Pros Get it Wrong

The week of February 5, which is when the S&P 500 bottomed at 1,737, professional investment managers slashed their equity exposure a whopping 50%.

The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the long exposure of money managers polled by NAAIM (National Association of Active Investment Managers).

Their decision to dump stocks around February 5 was the worst timing ever, and it’s not the first time that’s happened. Now it kind of makes sense why some 80% of actively managed mutual funds underperform broad index ETFs like the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY).

My Worst Trade in Years

I’m a terrible liar, so I’m just going to come out and say it: “I did not expect this week’s rally after seeing Monday’s sell off.”

Unlike the NAAIM Pros, who sold around S&P 1,740, I (as expressed in the Profit Radar Report) expected a strong rally from 1,732, with an initial target at 1,830.

The February 19 Profit Radar Report upgraded the target to 1,870 +/-.

Up until Monday, the forecast played out beautifully, as the S&P 500 topped at 1,868 and dropped 40+ points on Monday.

To make matters worse, I recommended a tiny short position at 1,840 with a stop-loss at 1,851. To add more insult to injury, the S&P 500 gapped past our stop-loss at 1,851 on Tuesday right after the bell.

We already got rid of half this short position at a better price, but are still stuck with the second half and, at this point, the largest paper loss in years.

Our worst loss of all trades in 2013 was 1.01% (compared to an annualized gain of 59%). If it wasn’t for the gap up open, the position would have been closed out for a small 0.5% loss.

What’s the lesson? No matter your track record, the stock market can turn you into a fool (or genius) within a matter of hours.

Why are we still holding on to the second portion of this terrible short trade? Because the S&P 500 is at an inflection point that may bring our short position back into the green.

What and where is the inflection point? Here’s my take:

Is it Too Late to Jump into Stocks? Watch S&P 500 Reaction to This Inflection Point

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.

Chart: 2014 Market Humiliates Money Managers

Have you ever bought or sold stocks at the worst possible time? If you have, you’ll really enjoy this chart, which exposes just how bad the recent timing of professional money managers has been.

Buy low, sell high. It’s easier said than done, but you’d at least expect the ‘pros’ to be reasonably good at this.

Wrong! Professional money managers already racked up an impressive lousy track record for 2014.

On February 7, I wrote an article titled: “Investment Managers Slash Equity Exposure by 50%,” and published the chart below.

The article commented that such an irrational move out of equities usually leads to a rebound of the S&P 500.

The chart data is based on the NAAIM (National Association of Active Investment Managers) survey, which is updated every Thursday.

Last week, the NAAIM survey was updated on February 6, which means that most of the data is received on February 4 and 5.

So in reality professional investment managers slashed their equity exposure by 50% right around February 4 and 5.

The S&P 500 (SNP: ^GSPC) tumbled to its 2014 low on … you guessed it … February 5 at 1,738.

That’s when active managers sold. The S&P 500 and S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY) rallied over 5.2% since. The Nasdaq QQQ ETF (Nasdaq: QQQ) soared 7.11% since.

If the same thing happened to you (buy or sell at the worst of times), take heart, the pros didn’t do any better.

When harping on the skills (or lack thereof) of professional managers I’m often reminded of this saying: “Don’t throw stones if you’re sitting in a glass house.”

To be brutally honest, the 90 S&P point rally didn’t trip the buy trigger outlined in my Profit Radar Report, but at least we saw this rally coming.

The February 2 Profit Radar Report stated that: “Our preferred forecast calls for a brief dip towards 1,730 followed by an energetic rally towards 1,830 for the S&P 500,” and the February 12 Profit Radar Report mentioned 1,845 (open chart gap) as target.

The February 5 update featured this visual projection (yellow line) of the ‘energetic rally towards 1,830’ (as illustrated by the yellow line we expected the S&P 500 to close the open chart gap at 1,733.45 before rallying strongly).

The latest NAAIM data shows that the average investment manager increased equity exposure from 50.97% to 73.26%.

That’s interesting, but it’s impossible to draw any predictive conclusions from this one data point change.

However, the S&P 500 has surpassed our initial up side target ~1,830 and came within striking distance of closing the 1,845 gap, so risk is rising.

The Dow Jones (NYSEArca: DIA) is close to 14-year key resistance level, which delineates bearish risk from bullish potential.

In short, there’s no reason to be complacent around current levels and the pros may feel some redemption if trade revisits the previous low.

Of course, the ‘pros’ will look like complete fools if the big fat buy signal given by this indicator pans out.

New Spin on Old Indicator Gives Big Fat Buy Signal

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.