Advertise | Bookmark | Contact Us | E-Mail List |  | Update Page | 

Commentary : Gold Review : Markets : News Wire : Quotes : Silver : Stocks - Main Page >> News >> Story  Disclaimer 
Latest Headlines

GoldSeek Radio: Gerald Celente and Wolf Richter, and Chris Waltzek

SWOT Analysis: Tightened Supplies Could Be Good for Copper
By: Frank Holmes

Technical Scoop - Weekend Update Mar 19
By: David Chapman

The Wealth Machine That Rising Interest Rates Create And The Conflict With The National Debt (Part 2)
By: Daniel R. Amerman, CFA

2018 Reversal Dates for Gold, Silver and Gold Stocks
By: Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA

Standing Ready to Lease Gold
By: Keith Weiner

Is The U.S. Economy Really Growing?
By: Peter Cook, CFA

Pro-govt. Turkish paper reprints Manly's RT exposure of gold price suppression
By: Chris Powell

Yet Another Chart That Screams ďLook Out!Ē
By: John Rubino

Bonds, Inflation And Amigos
By: Gary Tanashian


GoldSeek Web

The limitations of sentiment as a market timing tool

By: Steve Saville, The Speculative Investor

 -- Published: Tuesday, 28 March 2017 | Print  | Disqus 

Itís important to state up front that despite the associated pitfalls, it can definitely be helpful to track the publicís sentiment and use it as a contrary indicator. This is because most participants in the financial markets get swept up by the general mood. They end up buying into the idea that prices are bound to go much higher despite valuations having already become unusually high or the idea that prices will continue to slide despite current valuations being unusually low. This causes them to be very optimistic near important price tops and either very pessimistic or totally disinterested near important price bottoms.

It will always be this way because 1) a major price/valuation trend canít end until the fundamental story behind the trend has been fully embraced by Ďthe publicí, and 2) the publicís own buying/selling shifts the probability of success. For example, when the public gets enthusiastic about an investment its own buying pushes up the price of the investment to the point where future performance is guaranteed to be poor. Consequently, there is no chance that the investing public can ever collectively enter or exit any market at an opportune time.

There are, however, three potential pitfalls associated with using sentiment to guide buying/selling decisions.

The first is linked to the reality that sentiment generally follows price, which makes it a near certainty that the overall mood will be at an optimistic extreme when the price is near an important top and a pessimistic extreme when the price is near an important bottom. The problem is that while an important price extreme will always be associated with a sentiment extreme (extreme optimism at a price high and extreme pessimism at a price low), a sentiment extreme doesnít necessarily imply an important price extreme. For example, if the price of an investment has been trending strongly upward for many months and is at an all-time high then sentiment indicators will almost certainly reveal great optimism even if the upward trend is still in its infancy. It is therefore dangerous to take large positions based solely on sentiment.

The second potential pitfall associated with using sentiment to guide buying/selling decisions is that what constitutes a sentiment extreme will vary over time, meaning that there are no absolute benchmarks. Of particular relevance, what constitutes dangerous optimism in a bear market will often not be a problem in a bull market and what constitutes extreme fear/pessimism in a bull market will often not signal a good buying opportunity in a bear market. In other words, context is critical when assessing sentiment. Unfortunately, the context is always a matter of opinion.

The third potential pitfall relates to the sentiment indicators that are based on surveys.

Regardless of what the surveys say, there will always be a lot of bears and a lot of bulls in any financial market. It must be this way otherwise there would be no trading and the market would cease to function. As a consequence, if a survey shows that almost all traders are bullish or that almost all traders are bearish it means that the survey has a very narrow focus. In other words, the survey must be dealing with only a small fragment of the overall market.

There is no better example of sentimentís limitations as a market timing indicator than the US stock marketís performance over the past few years. To show what I mean Iíll use the results of the sentiment survey conducted by Investors Intelligence (II), which has the longest track record* and is probably the most accurate of the stock market sentiment surveys.

The following chart from shows the performance of the S&P500 Index (SPX) over the past 30 years with vertical red lines to indicate the weeks when the II Bull/Bear ratio was at least 3.0 (a bull/bear ratio of 3 or more suggests extreme optimism within the surveyed group).

Notice that vertical red lines coincided with most of the important price tops (the 2000 top was the big exception), but that there were plenty of times when a vertical red line (extreme optimism) did not coincide with an important price top. Notice, as well, that optimism was extreme almost continuously from Q4-2013 to mid-2015 and that following a correction the optimistic extreme had returned by late-2016.

In effect, sentiment has been consistent with a bull market top for the past 3.5 years, but there is not yet any evidence in the price action that the bull market has ended.


The bottom line is that sentiment can be a useful indicator, but it does have serious limitations. It is just one medium-sized piece of a large puzzle.

*The II sentiment data goes back to 1963


| Digg This Article
 -- Published: Tuesday, 28 March 2017 | E-Mail  | Print  | Source:

comments powered by Disqus

Regular financial market forecasts and analyses are provided at our web site. We arenít offering a free trial subscription at this time, but free samples of our work (excerpts from our regular commentaries) can be viewed here.

E-mail: Steve Saville


Increase Text SizeDecrease Text SizeE-mail Link of Current PagePrinter Friendly PageReturn to >> Story

E-mail Page  | Print  | Disclaimer 

© 1995 - 2017 Supports

©, Gold Seek LLC

The content on this site is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws and is the property of and/or the providers of the content under license. By "content" we mean any information, mode of expression, or other materials and services found on This includes editorials, news, our writings, graphics, and any and all other features found on the site. Please contact us for any further information.

Live GoldSeek Visitor Map | Disclaimer

The views contained here may not represent the views of, its affiliates or advertisers. makes no representation, warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy or completeness of the information (including news, editorials, prices, statistics, analyses and the like) provided through its service. Any copying, reproduction and/or redistribution of any of the documents, data, content or materials contained on or within this website, without the express written consent of, is strictly prohibited. In no event shall or its affiliates be liable to any person for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided herein.