Hulbert: Sentiment Levels Indicate Bull Isn't Done

Many investors are fearing that the recent tumble in oil prices is a sign of bad things to come for stocks. But Mark Hulbert says sentiment levels indicate that the bull market isn’t done.

“That’s because sentiment conditions in recent weeks have been far different than what normally is seen at market tops,” Hulbert writes in his MarketWatch column. “Not only did the bulls quickly retreat in the wake of that weakness, bullish sentiment was surprisingly subdued even before that weakness began.”

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Hulbert says the average recommended equity exposure among a subset of Nasdaq-oriented market timers tracked by his Hulbert Financial Digest (as measured by the Hulbert Nasdaq Newsletter Sentiment Index, or HNNSI) is 37.5%. That’s 25 percentage points below where it stood earlier this month, and hardly indicative of the extreme bullishness usually seen at market tops.

“What I find even more noteworthy, however, is that the HNNSI never got higher than 62.5% during the market’s recent run to new highs,” Hulbert adds. “This 62.5% is far lower than the levels to which the HNNSI rose earlier in the year. In March, it got as high as 93.8%, and prior to the July-August mini-correction, the HNNSI got up to 87.5%.”

Hulbert says that is “encouraging since the normal pattern is for bullishness to rise and fall more or less in lockstep with the overall market. That the HNNSI didn’t come anywhere close to a record high suggests there is a significant undercurrent of skepticism among market timers. And that’s bullish from a contrarian perspective.”