It’s that time of the year again when stocks typically underperform. The end of Summer and the beginning of Fall. Don’t ask me why but that’s what the data tells us (see graphs below).
There are multiple theories as to why this happens every year and as a human, we like to attach a simple reason to the outcome that we see, even though a lot of time the actual reasons are much more complicated than that.
Studying market sentiment is like reading someone’s face and trying to understand what they are thinking and feeling. It’s not always 100% accurate, but at least we could get a sense of whether the person is happy or sad based on the facial expression, then act accordingly.
I started looking into Market Sentiment Analysis because I knew the winning streak of my Wheel Strategy tradings will not last and I needed more tools to guide me on how aggressive I should (or should not) participate in the market.
One of the places I looked for obviously was the typical Chart Technical Analysis as it could tell us what people are thinking and doing. For example, when a clear divergence is observed between the price movement and a technical indicator (in this case Money Flow Index), it tells us that even though the price is going down overall, there is a positive (buying) money flow for whatever reason.
While this is very useful and can be applied to Stock Indices to get a sense of what’s going on in a broader market, the amount of data is somewhat limited as we are primarily looking at only the price and volume. It is good for making short term trading decisions but doesn’t give me a broader perspective of what’s going on in the market and answer some of my questions such as
- How confident people are about the market?
- Is the market environment changing?
- What is the current market environment compared to previously? Say right before a large recession drop?
- Is there a way to predict the next market downturn?
I came across Sentimentrader.com while watching a YouTube video dissecting an SPX chart. The video showed a graph of the % of stocks that are above 50 days Moving Average (MA) similar to the one shown below.
The message of the video was that there is a clear divergence between “SPX price” and “Stocks > 50% MA”. This is not a definitive sign of a market collapse, but an indication that a lot of the stocks are now moving sideways or start to decline.
The data below is only up to June 4th, 2021 and interestingly enough, SPX has since climbed even higher with only two minor dips in June and July.
However, my Wheel Strategy profitability has declined substantially in the last couple of months, which tells me that the market condition is definitely shifting in some ways. To find out more, I decided to signup and dig a little deeper to see what the site has to offer.
As it turned out, there are several indicators that could be pretty useful.
1) Smart Money / Dumb Money Confidence
These data show the correlation between Smart Money (Blue) and Dumb Money (Brown) in regards to the market.
When the Dumb Money Confidence is dominating (the red boxes), the market seems to continue on an uptrend overall with some minor sideways move. This could be the time to go big, deploy more capital without worrying about hedging.
When the Dumb Money line is crossing over with Smart Money, it’s time to be cautious and it could lead to a large decline (red arrows).
Obviously, this is only one of the many data points we need to look at and decide how to trade but this could also be useful at confirming what is going in the market.
For example, both Dumb and Smart Money lines have crossed each other a couple of times in the last couple of months, which indicates it’s time to be cautious. My declined trading profit in the last couple of months indicates that I am getting assigned more with the Wheel Strategy, in other words, more stocks are declining in price. The Wheel Strategy is a positive Beta strategy so clearly, the market condition is changing despite the fact that SPX continues to climb higher.
2) ROBO Put/Call Ratio
ROBO stands for Retail-Only, Buy-to-Open. It looks at transactions that are buy-to-open only for trades that are under 10 contracts of Put and Call options.
In theory, this ratio focuses on small traders to get a better feel for what they are trying to do. Put is generally used to speculate price decline for small traders so the Put/Call ratio generally goes up when the market is in decline.
The ROBO Put/Call ratio is right now below 0.5 and the last time it was hovering around this level, was between 2004 – 2008 before the financial crisis (red boxes).
This doesn’t mean we are going to have another market decline like in 2008 but, it certainly shows how confident the small traders are with the current market.
3) NYSE Net High-Low %
Similar to the graph of the % of stocks that are above 50 days Moving Average (MA) described earlier, this data shows the net percentage of NYSE securities trading at a 52-week high minus the percentage trading at a 52-week low (blue line).
When there is a divergence between the SPX price and the NYSE Net High-Low ratio (red arrows), a market dip occurred sometime after it (yellow arrows). Obviously, there have been divergences that did not follow with a market dip, but it certainly is one of the signs to watch out for.
I overlayed the Smart Money / Dumb Money Confidence Spread (brown line) and there is a clear correlation that can be seen.
4) Sector and Country Sentiment Overview
China recently started regulating its tech industry BIG TIME. As a result, many of the Chinese stocks started to decline, including non-tech-related ones. Probably not a good time to open any Chinese stock-related positions, or it could also be a great opportunity if you are a contrarian.
The Delta variant COVID-19 is causing yet another surge in infection cases and after moving sideways in May and June, the Health Care sector has started moving up again.
It’s not always as clear-cut or as easy to explain why the changes in sentiment for certain sectors or countries, but keeping an eye on these data could provide an early warning sign or potential trade opportunities.
What is the Takeaway?
When I just started trading stocks and options, I always wondered how experienced stock/options traders could tell when to buy and sell, and stay calm even when the market was dropping like a sharp knife.
As I gained more experience and studied more, I came to learn that there are tools that could help us understand what is going on in the market and make educated decisions.
One of the challenges that we have as a trader is to truly understand how each of the trading strategies would perform under different market conditions.
For example, the Wheel Strategy is a Beta positive strategy so it is more profitable when the market goes up, and less when the market goes down.
I managed to get a 10% one-month return several times earlier this year and looking at the sentiment data that we discussed earlier, it becomes clear that there was a perfect uptrend market condition for this to happen. In other words, this would not have happened in other market conditions. This means I need to act more cautiously and be more defensive during non-uptrend market conditions.
By learning how to read the market sentiment, I am now able to not panic when the Wheel Strategy is not performing, knowing that the underperformance is because of the changes in market condition and not because of my trading errors.
My technical and fundamental analysis could still be correct, but if the market is in a phase that nobody cares about the usual technical or fundamental data, then of course no matter how correct I am, I would not be able to get the results that I hoped for.
Under such poor market conditions, the best I could do is to control what I can (be more conservative with position sizing and risk-taking) and hope for the best.