After Fast Decline and Comeback, Assessing the Stock Market

More confusion than conviction seems to be the prevailing mood in the markets, according to a recent article in CNBC.

“For investors, trying to gauge sentiment among other investors and traders is a constant undertaking, a way to sort out what bets are popular, which themes are played out and where lies the index direction that would cause the greatest surprise.”

The article notes that the S&P 500’s recent 30% drop was the fastest from a record high in history, “on a literally unprecedented intentional stoppage of most global commerce,” after which stocks rebounded in the fastest 35% rally in more than 80 years, “regaining 60% of the decline but still without much support from improving real-time economic indicators.”

But besides the “head-spinning round-trip,” the article argues that the market has otherwise “gone nowhere,” pointing to recent retail investor surveys in which bearish respondents outnumbered bullish. It adds, however, that the picture becomes a bit more mixed when taking into account the views of professional investors, “tactical traders and market-based behavioral indicators,” citing a drop in demand for downside protection and a surge in online brokerage account openings by young investors “stuck at home and looking for action.”

Add to the mix “neutral, ambiguous or offsetting” sentiment readings, the article says, and “it’s fair to say investors collectively are undecided on the  path for stocks and the economy, in a market that’s both up a lot and beaten down.”

It concludes: “What’s clear, though, is that anyone buttressing a positive case by claiming ‘everyone’s bearish’ and those calling for deep downside on the notion that ‘everyone is too bullish’ are equally unreliable at the moment.”