We get irked when TV pundits misrepresent the mood of equity investors as unduly pessimistic based one or two (or zero) data points. Among the dozens of “Attitudinal” indicators we track, an overwhelming majority show professional and retail investors have jumped back into the fray.
This issue of Leuthold Quick Takes reviews the conflicted nature of investor sentiment as seen by Doug Ramsey (Chief Investment Officer) and Jim Paulsen (Chief Investment Strategist).
Throughout the spring and summer, the market could alternatively be characterized as “divergent” or “disjointed”—but until very recently it could not be considered “distributive.” Now, Mid and Small Caps have hit a short-term air pocket and breadth figures were exceptionally poor at September’s scattered highs in the DJIA and S&P 500.
This month’s “Of Special Interest” allots eight pages to the (opposition) view that the correction is over, featuring charts we find the most threatening to our bearish stance. Based on its sudden popularity among the press and punditry, the indicator in this chart—highlighting the air-pocket in investor confidence—perhaps should have been part of that feature. Here’s why it wasn’t.
The stock market staged a two-day bearish reversal beginning a few hours after the release of the March employment report, a decline that could —based on the bearish status of a single MTI category (Attitudinal)—carry further before it is finished. But with the S&P 500 (and many other U.S. equity indexes) recording a bull market high as recently as April 2, it’s too early to argue the market top is “in.”
The analysis of stock market sentiment is an area that’s become especially prone to selective perception, what with the explosion in creative, New-Economy ways to measure investor mood (Twitter activity, Google searches on key phrases, etc.). By the sheer law of large numbers, a market commentator with any view whatsoever can now ferret out enough data points or market anecdotes to paint him/herself as a maligned and misunderstood contrarian.