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May 12 2014

“Gonna take a sentimental journey…Gonna set my heart at ease…Gonna make a sentimental journey…To renew old memories.” If you’re a fan of Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra, then you probably recognize these lyrics. Although we rarely think of them as such, the ups and downs of stock and bond markets are sentimental journeys. They reflect the thoughts and attitudes of investors toward particular companies, investments, and markets. Investopedia explains it like this:

“Market sentiment is the feeling or tone of a market, or its crowd psychology, as revealed through the activity and price movement of the securities traded in that market. For example, rising prices would indicate a bullish market sentiment, while falling prices would indicate a bearish market sentiment. Market sentiment is also called “investor sentiment” and is not always based on fundamentals.”

The American Association of Individual Investors (AAII) measures investor sentiment by polling their membership each week. The long-term average is 39 percent bullish, 30.5 percent neutral, and 30.5 percent bearish. Last week, 28.3 percent of its members were bullish, 28.7 percent were bearish, and 43 percent were neutral.

According to Yahoo! Finance, that’s the highest level of investor neutrality in more than a decade and may indicate a sharp move up or down is coming soon. “Going back to 2005, AAII neutral sentiment has pushed to 38 on four distinct prior occasions… Looking at the S&P 500 a month later showed greater than 4 percent moves each time over the subsequent 30 days.”

The article, which was published last week, failed to mention the AAII neutral sentiment measure has surpassed 38 on eight occasions since the start of 2014. A quick inspection of S&P 500 pricing indicates markets have moved by 1 to 6 percent during the subsequent month (although we are not yet 30 days from some of those dates). Regardless of the number of times investor neutrality has pushed to 38 or above, or the sharpness of the subsequent market moves, not all of those moves have been in the same direction so it’s hard to predict what this bout of neutral sentiment may indicate.

  • Data as of 5/9/141- WeekY-T-D1-Year3-Year5-Year10-Year
  • Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)-0.0011.6%15.5%0.11715.6%5.6%
  • 10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)2.6N/A1.83.13.24.8
  • Gold (per ounce) 0.87.5-11.9-4.97.213.2
  • DJ-UBS Commodity Index-0.78.00.3-5.82.4-0.9
  • DJ Equity All REIT TR Index1.414.41.511.022.510.9

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Bart A Zandbergen, CFP® is a Registered Investment Advisor with Optivest, Inc and a Registered Representative with Gramercy Securities, Inc. Investment advisory services are offered by Optivest, Inc. under SEC Registration and securities are offered through Gramercy Securities, Inc., member FINRA & SIPC, 3949 Old Post Road, Charlestown, RI, 02813, 800-333-7450.

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