Bulls who fashion themselves as contrarians argue that the public is nowhere near as infatuated with the stock market as they were in the late 1990s. It may come as a shock to our readers, but we agree with them.
The need to sound contrarian has become a borderline obsession among market pundits. Media opportunities for talking heads have exploded in the last decade, forcing those who hold the safest consensus views to falsely portray themselves as lonely and misunderstood market mavericks.
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.
The crowd is not always wrong and being contrary is not always right. However, maintaining the ability to step away from the crowd is crucial. Our once lonely positive stance toward consumer stocks seems to now be consensus, but that in itself is not reason to now abandon the thesis. It does, however, put us on guard.