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Sentiment Indicators

Investors/traders track a range of sentiments (consumer, investor, analyst, forecaster, management), searching for indications of the next swing of the psychological pendulum that paces financial markets. Usually, they view sentiment as a contrarian indicator for market turns (bad means good — it’s darkest before the dawn). These blog entries relate to relationships between human sentiment and the stock market.

The COTs Timer Trading System

A reader inquired about the COTs Timer trading system, which employs information from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) combined futures and options Commitments of Traders (COT) reports to time the markets for associated assets. In describing these reports, COTs Timer states that: “Devoted fans say they may be the closest thing in the public domain to a Holy Grail of market forecasting.” The author (Alex Roslin, a journalist) outlines nine steps that take ten minutes each week to exploit COT report data and states: “I’ve been using my COTs-based system to invest my family’s savings since January 2007.” He presents the long-term performance of his system across asset classes and offers detailed weekly data and analysis, including buy and sell signals, for S&P 500 index COT reports dating back to 5/16/95. Using these signals and contemporaneous weekly opening levels for the S&P 500 index over the period 6/12/95 through 2/25/08 (663 weeks), we find that… Keep Reading

UBS/Gallup Measurement of American Investor Optimism

Does systematic measurement of the level of investor optimism provide a clue to the future direction of the stock market? Or, does investor sentiment merely respond to market ups and downs? UBS and Gallup conduct a monthly poll of American investors (“head of a household or a spouse in any household with total savings and investments of $10,000 or more”) to assess their aggregate level of optimism. Polling takes place during the first half of each month, with results reported near the end of the month. Comparing historical UBS/Gallup investor optimism data to contemporaneous monthly S&P 500 index over the period February 1999 through December 2007, we find that… Keep Reading

Does the Bullish Percent Index Predict Market Direction?

Is the Bullish Percent Index a useful indicator of overall stock market or sector direction by reliably identifying overbought/oversold conditions from which stock prices are likely to revert? In a study published in the 2005 Journal of Technical Analysis, Andrew Hyer relates the simple average Bullish Percent across 40 stock market sectors (BPAVG) to future broad stock market returns. Using weekly levels of BPAVG as calculated by Dorsey, Wright & Associates and overall stock market returns over the next 100 calendar days based on the Value Line Geometric Index for a total sample period of 1/6/98-1/24/05 (about 368 weeks or 26 intervals of 100 calendar days), he concludes that: Keep Reading

Short-term Relative VIX Level as a Trading Signal

A reader requested a test of the TradingMarkets 5% VIX rule, which states:

“Do not buy stocks (or the market) anytime the VIX is 5% below its moving average. Why? Because since 1989, the S&P 500 cash market has “lost” money on a net basis 5 days following the times the VIX has been 5% below its 10 day ma.”

“Since 1989, whenever the VIX has been 5% or more above its 10 day ma, the S&P 500 has achieved returns which are better than 2 1/2 to 1 compared to the average weekly returns of all weeks.”

The reader also asked whether one can improve the signal by using a 4% or 6% threshold rather than 5%, or by using a holding interval longer or shorter than five days. We first reproduce the results claimed by TradingMarkets, then investigate whether the signals are of economic value to traders, and finally test sensitivity of results to parameter changes. Using daily CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) and S&P 500 index data for 1/2/90-7/11/07 (4415 trading days), we find that: Keep Reading

Do Investors Fairly Value Stocks of the Most Admired Companies?

In their 2005 paper entitled “A Great Company Can Be a Great Investment”, Jeff Anderson and Gary Smith evaluate the stock returns of companies rated highest in Fortune magazine’s annual surveys of “America’s Most Admired Companies.” Survey respondents are senior executives, directors and securities analysts, and the questions asked seemingly relate indirectly or directly to the investment value of the companies named. Using lists for 1983 (survey inception) through 2004 (a total of 22 years) and associated stock return data for the publicly held companies on the lists, they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Predictive Power of the Put-Call Ratio for Individual Stocks

Do put-call ratios for individual stocks predicting their future returns? In their 2006 paper entitled “The Information in Option Volume for Future Stock Prices”, published in The Review of Financial Studies, Jun Pan and Allen Poteshman investigate the predictive power of put-call ratios for the returns of individual stocks. They define the put-call ratio as put buy-to-open volume divided by the sum of put and call buy-to-open volumes. Using daily volumes for all Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) listed options and associated stock price data during 1990-2001, they find that: Keep Reading

Whose Sentiment Matters, and for What Horizon?

Is sentiment a useful trading indicator? In their December 2006 paper entitled “On the Predictive Power of Sentiment: Why Institutional Investors Are Worth Their Pay”, Bernhard Zwergel and Christian Klein measure the forecasting abilities of institutional and private investors and test out of sample a related trading strategy. Their source data comes from the sentix weekly sentiment survey, asking as many as 700 investors (25% institutional and 75% private investors) about the future one-month (short term) and six-month (medium term) directions of ten stock markets. Using this data for six of these markets over the period 2/23/01-2/2/06, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Buy Stocks of Companies Experts Hate?

Are the most admired companies the best investments? Or, is current state of admiration a contrarian indicator for future returns? In their February 2007 paper entitled “Stocks of Admired Companies and Despised Ones”, Deniz Anginer, Kenneth Fisher and Meir Statman test these hypotheses. The authors define state of admiration using Fortune magazine’s annual survey-based lists of “America’s Most Admired Companies.” Survey respondents are senior executives, directors and securities analysts, and the questions asked seemingly relate indirectly or directly to the investment value of the companies named. Using these lists for April 1983 (survey inception) through March 2006, associated stock return data and a separate survey of high-net worth investors, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Aggregate Investor Sentiment and Stock Returns

Is aggregate investor sentiment a useful trading indicator? For what kinds of stocks is sentiment trading most likely to work? In their December 2006 paper entitled “Investor Sentiment in the Stock Market”, Malcolm Baker and Jeffrey Wurgler summarize a top down approach to addressing these questions, focusing on the measurement of aggregate sentiment and its relationship to stock returns. They devise a long-run aggregate sentiment index derived from principal component analysis of six indicators: trading volume as measured by NYSE turnover; the dividend premium; the closed-end fund discount; the number of and first-day returns on Initial Public Offerings; and, the equity share in new issues. Using this index and stock return data for 1966-2005, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Financial News Sentiment Predicts Stock Returns?

Does exceptionally negative news coverage predict hard times for a company and its stock price? In their August 2006 paper entitled “More Than Words: Quantifying Language to Measure Firms’ Fundamentals”, Paul Tetlock, Maytal Saar-Tsechansky and Sofus Mackassy test whether they can predict a company’s future performance and stock returns by quantifying the sentiment in its financial news coverage. Their sentiment measure is a standardized level of negativity based on word counts and the Harvard psychosocial dictionary. Using Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Dow Jones News Service (DJNS) stories about individual S&P 500 firms during 1980-2004 (350,000 significant articles), along with contemporaneous financial and stock price data, they find that: Keep Reading

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