AAII Sentiment Survey: Optimism Falls to an 8-Week Low

Posted on July 24, 2014 | AAII Survey

Pessimism about the short-term direction of stock prices rose to a three-month high in the latest AAII Sentiment Survey. Optimism continued to fall, while neutral sentiment extended its streak of above-average readings to 29 weeks.

Bullish sentiment, expectations that stock prices will rise over the next six months, declined 2.7 percentage points to 29.6%. This is an 11-week low. It is also the 17th time in the past 19 weeks that optimism is below its historical average of 39.0%.

Neutral sentiment, expectations that stock prices will stay essentially unchanged over the next six months, rose 1.3 percentage points to 40.4%. As noted above, the increase puts neutral sentiment above its historical average of 30.5% for the 29th consecutive week. This is the third-longest streak of readings over 30.5% for neutral sentiment in the survey’s history.

Bearish sentiment, expectations that stock prices will fall over the next six months, rose 1.5 percentage points to 29.9%. This is the highest level of pessimism recorded by our survey since April 17, 2014. Nonetheless, bearish sentiment remains below its historical average of 30.5% for the 14th straight week and the 37th out of the last 41 weeks.

Neutral sentiment is back up to unusually high levels (more than one standard deviation above its historical average) for the first time in a month. Historically, unusually high neutral sentiment readings have been followed by better-than-average market performance over the proceeding six and 12-month periods. The link is not causal, however.

The bull-bear spread (the difference between bullish and bearish sentiment) turned negative for the first time since early May. The shift follows last Thursday’s 1.2% drop in the S&P 500, which was the biggest one-day drop since April. Though stock prices have rebounded since then, the decline came at a time when many individual investors have concerns about valuations. Some AAII members are also fretting about the events in the Middle East and Ukraine, the pace of economic growth and Washington politics. Other AAII members remain optimistic about sustained economic growth, the market’s upward trend and the Federal Reserve’s tapering of bond purchases.

This week’s AAII Sentiment Survey results:

  • Bullish: 29.6%, down 2.7 percentage points
  • Neutral: 40.4%, up 1.3 percentage points
  • Bearish: 29.9%, up 1.5 percentage points

Historical averages:

  • Bullish: 39.0%
  • Neutral: 30.5%
  • Bearish: 30.5%

The AAII Sentiment Survey has been conducted weekly since July 1987 and asks AAII members whether they think stock prices will rise, remain essentially flat or fall over the next six months. The survey period runs from Thursday (12:01 a.m.) to Wednesday (11:59 p.m.). The survey and its results are available online at: http://www.aaii.com/sentimentsurvey.

Mixed Opinions on Whether Stocks Are Excessively Overvalued

Posted on July 24, 2014 | AAII Survey

This week’s AAII Sentiment special question asked AAII members what sectors or segments they think are excessively overvalued right now. Responses were very mixed. Slightly less than a quarter of all respondents (24%) said either no segment is excessively overvalued or that the overall market is fairly valued right now. About 13% view social media and Internet companies as being excessively overvalued. Technology was named by 12%. Financials and technology were each listed by 9% of respondents. (Some respondents named more than one sector or industry group.)

New Money Market Fund Rules Mostly Spare Individuals

Posted on July 24, 2014 | Investor Update

New rules for money market funds were approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) yesterday after a few years of contentious debate. Some money market funds will have floating net asset values (NAVs) instead of having their NAVs strictly pegged to $1 per share. Redemption restrictions will also be allowed on certain money funds during times of stress. Finally, the SEC will also issue a re-proposal on how it will gauge a fund’s credit-worthiness, using methods other than credit ratings.

The majority of money market funds available to individual investors will not be affected by the new floating NAV rules. This appears to be a compromise the SEC accepted as part of its fight with the fund industry to get the reforms pushed through. The floating NAV rules will apply to institutional prime money market funds and (according to Mike Krasner at iMoneyNet) tax-free institutional funds. This said, “retail” money market funds will continue to be able to peg their NAVs to the $1 per share mark.

Non-government money market funds will “have the ability to impose to fees and (redemption) gates during times of stress.” In other words, the SEC will allow non-government money market funds to restrict the size of withdrawals and/or place redemption fees during periods of stress. This rule is intended to prevent large institutional investors from engaging in what is the equivalent of a bank run and harming individual investors in the process.

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“Market Wizards” Advice: Doing the Uncomfortable Thing

Posted on July 24, 2014 | AAII Journal

Basing trading decisions on what feels emotionally satisfying often leads to the worst portfolio performance.

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Five Common Traits of Successful Value Screens

Posted on July 22, 2014 | AAII Journal

Though investing gurus differ in what they look for in a stock, there are five common traits we see across the AAII value-oriented screens.

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Kirkpatrick Bargain

Posted on July 21, 2014 | Stock Screens

A stock screening methodology created by Charles Kirkpatrick that uses the best triggers found in his testing of relative value, relative reported earnings growth and relative price strength.

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Social Media and “Pump and Dump” in the 21st Century

Posted on July 21, 2014 | Computerized Investing

While it is hard to argue with how much technology has made investing easier, there are always two sides to every coin.

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Geopolitical Concerns Spook U.S. Markets

Posted on July 18, 2014 | Stock Superstars Report

The Federal Reserve‘s Monetary Policy Report submitted to Congress this week included concerns about overvaluation in social media and biotech stocks. The report said, “Valuation metrics in some sectors do appear substantially stretched, particularly those for smaller firms in the social media and biotechnology industries, despite a notable downturn in equity prices for such firms early in the year.”

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Where Is the Cash Going?

Posted on July 18, 2014 | Dividend Investing

Ned Davis Research sent out a chart this week breaking down how S&P 500 companies spent their cash for the four quarters ending March 31, 2014. The largest amount was spent on net investments ($690.2 billion). Capital expenditures came in second at a record $666.4 billion. Share repurchases ranked third at $554.1 billion, which Ned Davis Research says is the largest four-quarter amount since the period ending December 31, 2007. Dividends ranked fourth at a record $344.3 billion.

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More Experience Won’t Necessarily Improve Returns

Posted on July 17, 2014 | Investor Update

If you listen to Malcolm Gladwell, you might believe spending 10,000 hours on investing will help you make better portfolio decisions. In his bestselling book, “Outliers” (Little, Brown and Company, 2008), Gladwell cites data from a study linking hours practiced to expertise. Gladwell’s assertion of the number of hours required to gain mastery of a skill is based on a 1993 study of violinists by K. Anders Ericsson and colleagues at Florida State University. The best violinists practiced 10,000 hours, 2,500 more hours than other violinists, according to the Ericsson group.

The Ericsson et al. study is widely cited. If one were to extrapolate its results, a link between the amount of time spent investing and portfolio returns could be drawn. Similar links could be drawn between practice and other activities as well. This is not the case, however. A study recently highlighted by Business Insider argues the amount of practice actually only plays a small role in the mastery of a skill.

In “Deliberate Practice: Is That All It Takes to Become an Expert?,” six researchers analyzed the data from many studies on chess and music. The researchers describe these activities as the “the two most widely studied domains in expertise research.” They found deliberate practice only accounts for 34% of variance in chess performance and 29.9% of variance in music performance.

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