The stock market has turned into a schizophrenic herd of sheep. Correlations have entirely converged in recent months as money simply flows from bullish to bearish depending on the current mood of our bi-polar friend. Jeff Saut of Raymond James says it is in large part due to the small investor throwing in the towel:
“The chart on page 3 shows the correlation of S&P 500 stocks to the S&P 500 Index. Studying the chart one finds that the correlation from September 2009 through early May 2010 ranged between 55 – 65. However, following the May 6th “flash crash” the correlation leaps to ~78 and eventually ~82, which is indeed the highest correlation since the 1987 crash. So what caused this fairly rare event? In my opinion it is because the retail investor – disgusted with high-frequency trading, dark pools, trading huddles, inter-market sweep orders, etc. – simply left the game, leaving the “pros” to trade among themselves. Obviously, when the alleged “dumb money” left the party correlation had to rise. Adding to the situation has been Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). To wit, when volume increases in say the Powershares Consumer Discretionary ETF (PEZ/$21.08), that ETF automatically goes in and buys ALL 60 of the mid-cap stocks within the fund. Plainly, that causes correlation to rise.”
I think it’s even simpler than that. This is classic herd mentality. The entire herd is either all grazing or all running scared at the same. Currently, the herd is grazing happily with not a care in the world. But don’t be fooled – when something spooks them you’ll get trampled if you don’t run with them…..
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.