Market Sentiment Screams Crash! Or Buy! Or Something…

Today, let us briefly address sentiment what it is, what it means and how to use it in your everyday trading. There is no piece of market data that is more misused, misunderstood or misapplied than sentiment.

The spark for today’s diatribe was a State Street study of cash allocations in investment portfolios. The study found that investors worldwide had as much as 40 percent of their holdings in cash in 2014, up from 31 percent in 2012. In the U.S., cash rose to 36 percent in 2014 from 26 percent in 2012.

This led to lots of news media coverage (see “Fear of Equities Drives More Investors to Cash” and “Investor distrust drives rise in cash holdings”). Huge cash holdings aren’t what we typically think of when discussing investor complacency. The always-savvy Michael Santoli pointed to this as an example of bullish desperation.

I am less convinced. Most of the time, sentiment data contains a lot of noise and not a whole lot of actionable information.

We can break sentiment data into two distinct groups: survey and market. Survey data is what we get when we ask someone a question about related market issues. It has an anecdotal component in which someone describes what they are doing in the markets. Market sentiment is some measure of price based on actual buying and selling. This includes a wide variety of indicators ranging from put/call ratios, percentage of stocks higher than their 200-day moving average, money flow, etc.  Continues here

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