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Sentiment Overview: Week Of October 24th, 2008 at Trader’s Narrative

Sentiment Surveys
According to Investor’s Intelligence newsletter publishers are as gloomy as they have ever been. This week’s sentiment bearish sentiment was 54.4% with bullish newsletter editors unchanged. While slightly more than half may not seem like much, you have to understand that like most media outlets, newsletters have a positivity bias that skews readings. But keep in mind that the II measure is not completely quantitative.

The American Association of Individual Investor’s (AAII) sentiment survey in contrast continues to show that retail investors in the US have suddenly become very bold. Similar to last week’s sentiment the optimists and pessimists are both 38.74%. This apathy or lack of fear is strange and more than a little unnerving.

Volatility continued to climb to the astonishment of everyone (first and foremost yours truly). The CBOE VIX index spiked to 89.3 and settled down to “only” 79.1 - quick someone give me a synonym for un-fraking-believable. Looking at the VIX futures market, the “smart” money, or commercial hedgers are carrying the largest long position they have ever been since the contract started. While the retail traders are taking the other side of the trade.

The options market yawned as usual. I prefer the CBOE equity only put call ratio because it filters out the noise. Although it rose, it didn’t even manage to reach 1.0 - it should easily be above 1.5 considering what we are going through. I tried to explain this crazy options market. But I’m not sure if I even convinced myself. This, like the majority of what is going on, is a head scratcher.

Fund Flows
As you can imagine, mutual funds have been hemorrhaging assets as people either sell to stuff cash under the mattress or take the slightly less safe road and buy money market funds. But preliminary numbers for the most recent fund flows shows a slight inflow. Again, this is puzzling. From a contrarian point of view, the ideal condition would be a continued outflow trend, even if the market rallied or stabilized - which it hasn’t really done.

What I’m still waiting for is the tsunami of hedge funds redemptions. Usually hedge funds have a lock up period to give the manager some breathing room. The more exclusive the hedge fund, the longer the lockup but usually it is 2-3 months.

Lowry’s 90-90 vs. Selling Pressure
As the VIX indicates this is an unbelievably volatile market. We’ve had so many 90-90 days (or very close calls) that my head is spinning. On Friday 84% of volume on the NYSE was negative. On Tuesday (October 21st) we saw almost the opposite with 87% flowing to stocks trading up.

Paul Desmond’s research at Lowry’s into the efficacy of 90-90 days has permeated the trading and investing world so much that I fear it may jump the shark. But assuming that it hasn’t already, there is more to the market than just watching for these important days. Lowry’s itself calculates two aggregate indicators for the market’s health: buying and selling pressure. Right now selling pressure has the upper hand (after jumping to an extreme level). Until it subsides and buying pressure takes over, the market isn’t going to go up.

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