The Stealth Bull Market

MarketWatch’s Mark Hulbert says that, while the market has continued its upward trend in the past few months, sentiment remains quite low among market-timers — and that’s good news for stocks.

As of Thursday, the shortest-term market-timers tracked by Hulbert’s Hulbert Financial Digest, on average, recommended that investors be 19.4% in stocks. “Though that may strike you as surprising, it is precisely what contrarian theory would suggest: The bull market is climbing a wall of worry,” Hulbert writes.

In addition, Hulbert says the last time that the average recommended equity exposure among those newsletters was as low as it is today was in early July, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was almost 2,000 points lower than recent levels. “That’s amazing, because the usual pattern is for advisers to become more optimistic and exuberant as the market rises, just as they tend to become more dejected and pessimistic as the market declines,” he says. “In other words, the bull market since July has had no net impact on the sentiment among market timers. Call it a stealth bull market, if you will.”

Hulbert says data shows that advisers have upped their equity stakes begrudgingly during recent months, and have been quick to bail on stocks at the first sign of trouble.

For example, during a mini-correction that started a few weeks back, the Dow dropped 3.3%, but the short-term timers decreased recommended equity exposure by more than half, Hulbert says. “Such eagerness to get out of stocks in the face of only a modest pullback is an indication of just how strong the wall of worry is right now,” he says. “And it suggests that the sentiment winds continue to be blowing in the direction of higher prices.”

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