Client Sentiment Survey Results – 2/22/13

Our latest sentiment survey was open from 2/22/13 – 3/1/13.  The Dorsey, Wright Polo Shirt Raffle continues to drive advisor participation, and we greatly appreciate your support!  This round, we had 55 advisors participate in the survey. If you believe, as we do, that markets are driven by supply and demand, client behavior is important.  We’re not asking what you think of the market—since most of our blog readers are financial advisors, we’re asking instead about the behavior of your clients.  Then we’re aggregating responses exclusively for our readership.  Your privacy will not be compromised in any way.

After the first 30 or so responses, the established pattern was simply magnified, so we are fairly comfortable about the statistical validity of our sample. Some statistical uncertainty this round comes from the fact that we only had four investors say that thier clients are more afraid of missing a stock upturn than being caught in a downdraft. Most of the responses were from the U.S., but we also had multiple advisors respond from at least two other countries. Let’s get down to an analysis of the data! Note: You can click on any of the charts to enlarge them.

Question 1. Based on their behavior, are your clients currently more afraid of: a) getting caught in a stock market downdraft, or b) missing a stock market upturn?

Chart 1: Greatest Fear.  From survey to survey, the S&P 500 rose about 0.5%, and our indicators responded with a mixed bag.  The fear of downturn group fell big this round, from 73% to 65%, while the upturn group rose from 27% to 35%.  This indicator is now showing the best client sentiment we’ve seen since March of 2012.

Chart 2: Greatest Fear Spread. Another way to look at this data is to examine the spread between the two groups.  The spread continued to fall, from 46% to 29%.

Question 2. Based on their behavior, how would you rate your clients’ current appetite for risk?

Chart 3: Average Risk Appetite.  Average risk appetite fell this round, which is not what we’d expect to see.  However, this indicator has been rising steadily with the market over the past few rounds, and it only fell by a small degree.  If the market continues to rally, watch for average risk to continue to climb.

Chart 4: Risk Appetite Bell Curve.  This chart uses a bell curve to break out the percentage of respondents at each risk appetite level.  This round, over 75% of all respondents wanted a risk appetite of 3 or less.

Chart 5: Risk appetite Bell Curve by Group.  The next three charts use cross-sectional data.  The chat plots the reported client risk appetite separately for the fear of downdraft and for the fear of missing upturn groups.  We can see the upturn group wants more risk, while the fear of downturn group is looking for less risk.  This is our most volatile indicator, as usual.

Chart 6: Average Risk Appetite by Group.  This round, the downturn group’s average fell, while the upturn group’s average shot higher.

Chart 7: Risk Appetite Spread.  This is a chart constructed from the data in Chart 6, where the average risk appetite of the downdraft group is subtracted from the average risk appetite of the missing upturn group.  The spread moved higher this round.

The S&P has now rallied for nearly two-thirds of the first quarter, and client sentiment has responded favorably.  All of our indicators are showing broad improvement in client sentiment, save a slight mis-step here or there.  If the stock market can continue to move higher, there’s no question that clients will become more aggressive and more comfortable with adding risk.

No one can predict the future, as we all know, so instead of prognosticating, we will sit back and enjoy the ride.  A rigorously tested, systematic investment process provides a great deal of comfort for clients during these types of fearful, highly uncertain market environments.  Until next time, good trading and thank you for participating.

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