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Sentiment Overview: Week Of February 22nd, 2008 at Trader’s Narrative

Sentiment Surveys
The common sentiment measures like AAII and Investor’s Intelligence haven’t changed significantly from last week so I won’t delve into the details. Most are continuing to show some level of bearishness, which as contrarians we should find comforting.

Consensus’ bullish percent continues to fall faster than a pervert’s pants. It is now at 23% - the lowest since early 2003, when the cyclical bull market began.

LowRisk, being the schizophrenic measure that it is, has now swung completely to the other side. From last week’s 64% bearish to only 36% bearish this week. The bulls are at 46%, easily outnumbering the pessimists.

ROBO Put/Call Ratio
The CBOE equity only put call ratio is the most famous measure of option sentiment but there are a few others. I’ve mentioned the ISEE Index several times (gathered from the ISE options exchange).

I think it is high time I mentioned another. The ROBO ratio is a concoction brewed every week by Jason Geopfert, of

The simplest and most common use of options by unsophisticated traders is to buy a put or buy a call. So Jason takes the detailed raw data from the Options Clearing Corporation, finds the trades for 10 contracts or less to open a position (both puts and calls) and uses them to calculate a ratio. Hence the name: Retail Only, Buy to Open. Simple, and straightforward; but ingenius. That’s Jason for you.

The only disadvantage is that there is a week’s time delay so it is best used in the long to intermediate time frame.

Right now the ratio is at 0.68 - in lieu of a chart: in recent years we’ve seen these levels in July 2004, August 2006, and March 2007.

Meaning that right now, retail option traders are skeptical of the stock market’s ability to recover. As they’ve been since the beginning of the year.

Commitment of Traders
The most recent Commitments of Traders report is showing the commercials (aka, smart money) slightly more net long. at $7 billion (aggregate futures contracts).

That’s a far cry from the unbelievable extremes that they reached last summer in August. Starting in July 2007, as prices declined, the commercials doubled up on their long bets again and again until they reached a brain melting $40 billion net long exposure in August (see chart):

commercials COT SPX chart

In contrast, the small speculators category (aka, dumb money) decreased their net long exposure to $11 billion net long. In January, they were at an extremely low $6 billion net long (aggregate futures contracts) and are actually still close to their record lows for the past few years.

On the whole, the market underwent a definite extreme position in January. So far it has refused to burst out of that oversold position, preferring instead to meander about, seemingly aimlessly. The danger for the longs is that it could drip lower slowly, not providing any panic short term lows, but instead simply cascading into lower lows and lower highs.

Personally I doubt that because all the indicators that I’m looking at, like those I mentioned above, tell me that we are in a bottoming process. But I could be wrong of course. Maybe there is a piece or two that I’m missing.

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6 Responses to “Sentiment Overview: Week Of February 22nd, 2008”  

  1. 1 Bisco

    Thank you for all your hard work on this blog. After only recently discovering it, it is the first one I check everyday. I loved going back and reading all the posts before I discovered it as well. One question - do you ever use technical analysis? You have the sentiment covered and then some, but I’m curious if you ever dabble in TA? A few years back I used to think it was nonsense but slapping a few bollinger bands and moving averages on a 1 year chart makes it very obvious that paying attention to TA is worth the time and effort. It’s also very useful in determining tops and bottoms and knowing when not to fight the trend.

  2. 2 Holly

    I hope the $40B smart money is able to get out soon enough or might lose it for a long time…

  3. 3 Babak

    Bisco, you’re welcome. TA is useful as a tool, just don’t go overboard thinking it is everything. I’ll see if I can push out some more pure TA stuff onto the blog.

    Holly, I think they got out in October/November 2007. They’re not called “smart” for nothin’ ;-)

  4. 4 Doug

    Hi, I have a question about the Market Vane survey. When I click on the market vane link the survey is described as a survey of commodities futures traders. Yet, you and quite a few analysts use it as a survey related to equities. Which is it? Thanks Doug

  5. 5 Jimmy

    Doug, the market vane survey covers different markets (metals, livestocks, agriculture, treasuries, equities, currencies, & others???) with opinions/analysis from commodity traders who may trade in one or many of these markets.

  6. 6 Babak

    yes, they cover 36 individual markets/commodities

    further to Jimmy’s response, I would recommend you get the info from the source:
    If I don’t qualify a mention of Market Vane, I’m referring to the equities related data. Otherwise, I’ll say Market Vane’s sentiment for bonds, etc.

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