From Bespoke Investments Group comes a reminder of the continuing skittishness of investors:
One thing that investors have been able to count on during this bull market is that whenever equities run into trouble bulls scatter and bears come out of the woodwork. Given the recent market weakness, that has once again been the case this week. Following the worst week for equities in over two years, bullish sentiment on the part of individual investors dropped and bearish sentiment spiked. According to the weekly survey of investor sentiment from the American Association of Individual Investors (AAII), bullish sentiment dropped from 31.12% down to 30.89%. While that was just a marginal decline, as you can see in the chart, it is still down sharply from where it was in early July.
Meanwhile, the magnitude of the move in bearish sentiment was much greater. Compared to last week’s reading of 31.12%, bearish sentiment rose over 7 percentage points this week to 38.23%. That is the highest level of bearish sentiment in nearly a year (8/22/13). With bullish sentiment now exceeding bullish sentiment by 7.34 percentage points, this is only the second time this year that bears have outnumbered bulls.
It seems that every time the market drops a few percent, bullish sentiment dissipates. In a secular bull market, which we may very well be in, that type of knee-jerk reaction can be costly.