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Sentiment Overview: Week Of May 30th, 2008 at Trader’s Narrative

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I took a few days off (hope you didn’t miss me too much). Let’s catch up by looking at the important sentiment developments:

ISE Sentiment
ISE sentiment may 2008I mentioned the ISEE during last week’s sentiment overview when it increased slightly as the market fell, showing that retail option traders were seemingly not worried. Even more bizarre, during the past shortened trading week as the market staged a strong recovery, the ISEE value actually fell.

Part of the explanation for this aberrant behavior may be that I’m looking at the “All Securities” data for the ISEE, rather than the “Equities Only”. The latter measure showed no similar increase for the week of May 23rd.

CBOE Put Call Ratio
Again, in contrast to the ISEE’s behavior, the CBOE equities only put call ratio showed this past week that traders became more bullish as the market rose. Although not the ideal, this is the normal pattern.

The put call ratio fell to 0.59 - approaching levels of bullishness which have previously caused stock market rallies much difficulty.

Hulbert Newsletter Sentiment
According to Mark Hulbert, the Hulbert Stock Newsletter Sentiment Index (HSNSI) has almost doubled from +16.2% to +31.2%. And it did so from mid May to the end of May 2008. Although this is an significant increase, I don’t think it presents us with a situation commensurate with market top.

To give you an idea, during mid to late April 2006 the HSNSI reached +73.2% - when the S&P 500 index soon after fell from 1325 to 1225. And during the bear market bottom in October 2002, it fell below -60%. So all I can say from the current reading is that more newsletter editors are jumping into the bullish camp but still not enough to cause serious problems.

According to the American Association of Individual Investors’ sentiment survey, there are now 31% bulls, down 15% points from last week’s 46% bulls.

This is a welcome reprieve, especially as it is accompanied by a lower market. Had this key sentiment survey remained unchanged or actually increased in bullishness, the sentiment tone would be definitely different.

Investor’s Intelligence
Similar to the AAII survey, the II sentiment measure fell from 47% bullish to 37.9%. I was worried about this since last week’s number was almost 50%. The keepers of this measure, the editors of ChartCraft, Burke and Gray agree with my general take on the market’s sentiment:

“While the sentiment is moving away from a bullish reading it is not yet close to calling for a market top”

I continue to see a lot of long term positives for the market and continue to believe the March bottom to be a major one. What I suspect we are seeing is a (hopefully) shallow pull back or pause before the next leg up.

Magazine Cover Indicator
economist cover recOILUh oh. Anyone long crude oil or any traditional energy related equities should be worried.

The Economist isn’t the most widely read publication but their cover stories still do carry weight - in a contrary sense most of the time. The price of crude has already tapered off and I suspect this will be either a significant top or at minimum a longish pause.

There are, of course, other signs that the whole energy rally has run its course. There are several technical signs, including the increasingly sharp slope of the trendlines as well as ominous candlestick formations.

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