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Sentiment Overview: Week Of October 31st, 2008 at Trader’s Narrative





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Before we say goodbye to not just a bad October but the worst month since the 1987, here is a quick roundup of the sentiment landscape:

Sentiment Surveys
According to ChartCraft, the Investor’s Intelligence sentiment survey shows newsletter editors little changed in their outlook this past week: 23.1% bullish and 52.7% bearish. That is still an extremely high level of pessimism for a normally cheerful bunch. Remember, doom and gloom doesn’t bring in the subscription coin.

The retail investors on the other hand continue to be nonchalant. The AAII weekly sentiment survey showed a small uptick in bearishness to 40.6% and a small downtick in bullishness to 37% but still the over all mood is way too cheerful for me. As a contrarian I’d be much more comfortable to see the average person continuing to be pessimistic about the market before getting too excited about a lasting rally.

Options Market
Like many, I continue to wrestle with the options market, trying to make some sense out of the data it generates. For more, check out not only my own thoughts about this crazy options market but some of the most respected technical analysts out there today.

The ISEE sentiment continues to be ambivalent about this whole chapter in the stock market. I have no idea why but it has totally broken down and although I continue to watch it, it is tough to ascribe a rationale for its moves or to glean a message from it.

The CBOE put call ratio (equity only) went up on Thursday and Friday implying that options traders on average were not totally buying the most recent rally.

Short Covering or Real Buying?
The reluctance to see Tuesday’s rally as “real” is shared by many. After all, the majority of the biggest one day gains in the stock market have occurred during brutal bear markets. A reader contacted me wondering if it was “just short covering” or “real”? I’m not sure if it makes much of a difference. The short interest ratio for the Nasdaq is very high, which is traditionally a bearish omen. Any other ideas on how to distinguish between a “real” rally and a short covering one?

Lowry’s 90/90 Day
The market continues to make people stare at their screen like goldfish, widemouthed and blinking in amazement. Tuesday’s rocket ride sure felt like a 90-90 up day, which according to Lowry’s research is a prerequisite for a new bull market. We’ve seen repeated 90-90 down days but finally got a decisive buying stampede. Up volume demolished down volume by a ratio of 19:1 - the most exaggerated ratio since last year.

If you still haven’t, read Paul Desmond’s seminal work in my free trading resource section (Reports & Articles)

Consumer Confidence
This should be an interesting holiday season for the retailers. The American consumer is not only incredibly dissatisfied with everything in general, they are extremely pessimistic about the future. Like so many other indicators we’ve been watching during this bear market, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence (Expectations) plunged to its lowest level ever.

consumer confidence index all time low october 2008

That is lower than the aftermath of the 1987 crash, the bear market in the 1970’s and the public’s reaction to the tragedy of 9/11. Which says a lot. Consumers are basically shell shocked. The spending orgy, fueled by easy credit, is gone. Now comes the hangover.

From a short term perspective this may appear to be bad news but historically troughs in consumer sentiment have been a great contrarian indicator. After I mentioned it as a condition of a new bull market, it rebounded briefly but the message is unmistakable.

Greybeards
In the past few weeks we’ve seen Warren Buffett, Doug Kass and Steve Leuthold all saying pretty much the same thing: they are buyers. Which leaves one wondering. If you are going to fade these guys, you better be incredibly lucky and incredibly smart. It is possible they are wrong - but highly, improbable.

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2 Responses to “Sentiment Overview: Week Of October 31st, 2008”  

  1. 1 Mark

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    Let’s not include Doug Kass in the “wise old greybeards category”, as he’s turned into another Cramer with his continual opinion-changing.

    Here’s a bearish one on 10/15

    And here’s a bullish one on September 4th (before things got REALLY bad)

    And how about this winner on Lehman

    And here’s a classic from July– the “U.S. Equity Market Has Bottomed for the Year”

    And this is one of my true favorites– the “large commitment to the financials on the long side”

    In short, Doug Kass has become something less than useless… He’s become DANGEROUS!

  2. 2 Babak

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    Mark, thanks for the links, I’ll take a close look at what you share but just off the cuff I’d say Kass is a trader and those opinions may have been short term in nature. But you’re right, he has a very short beard.

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