Bear’s Unprecedented Drop

November was a remarkable month for stocks, though equities have stalled out just below prior lows. That has not thwarted investor sentiment though.  The latest sentiment survey from the AAII showed 48.8% of investors reported as bullish, up from 45.3% last week. That is now the highest reading on bullish sentiment since the first days of August, and is more than 10 percentage points above the historical average of 37.5%.

While bullish sentiment has not yet moved above its prior highs, the share of respondents reporting as bearish has set a new low. The reading has experienced a dramatic shift having started November above 50%, and fallen all the way down to 19.6% this week. That is the lowest level of bearish sentiment since the first week of 2018!

Perhaps even more impressive is that over 30 percentage point drop in the past four weeks ranks as one of the largest declines on record.  Since the start of the survey in 1987, the current four week decline ranks as the fourth largest on record. The last occurrence was all the way back in April 2009.

As a result of the massive drop in bears, the bull-bear spread has risen to 29.2, just shy of the July high of 29.9.

The AAII survey was not alone in having seen a surge in optimism.  For example, the Investors Intelligence survey likewise is seeing the strongest bullish sentiment since early August and the NAAIM Exposure Index is at the highest level since late July.  Combining these readings into our sentiment composite shows the index is now at 0.95 indicating the average sentiment survey is now almost a full standard deviation above (meaning more bullish than) its historical average.

Continuing Claims Brutal Rise Continues

Initial jobless claims experienced a 22K drop last week (after a 2K upward revision this week), the largest one week decline since June 24th. Claims experienced a modest rebound in the most recent print rising back to 218K.  At that level, claims are in the middle of the past couple of year’s range which is also historically healthy relative to pre-pandemic readings.

Before seasonal adjustment, claims experienced an unusually large drop back below 200K. That is the first sub-200K print since the end of October. Additionally, it is a record low relative to the comparable week of the year throughout history. While that may sound like a positive, we’d be hesitant to begin shooting off confetti. That drop and low reading are more likely a function of the Thanksgiving holiday, and as shown below, this week’s drop is only a dent to the seasonal rise in claims that is typical for this time of year. In other words, one week does not make a trend.

While the initial claims number is likely not trending in a more positive direction, the concerning climb in continuing claims has pressed on. Seasonally adjusted continuing claims have continued their rapid rise with a week-over-week increase in nine of the last ten weeks.  That has resulted in a fresh two-year high of 1.927 million.

Mega-Cap AI Mentions Explode Thanks to NVIDIA

Now that NVIDIA (NVDA) has reported its Q3 numbers (the last of the mega-caps to report), below is an updated look at the number of times “AI” was mentioned during conference calls going back to 2021.  The revolutionary ChatGPT app was released in November 2022, and since then, we’ve seen an explosion in “AI” mentions from mega-cap management teams.  As shown below, “AI” was mentioned a total of 418 times this quarter across the conference calls of AAPL, AMZN, META, MSFT, GOOGL, and NVDA.  The big jump from last quarter’s 350 “AI” mentions was thanks to 154 mentions on NVDA’s call alone!

Apple (AAPL) remains the lone mega-cap that’s hardly discussing “AI” at all on its calls with just nine mentions this quarter.  Thus far, Apple has not jumped on the “AI” bandwagon at least when it comes to quarterly earnings conference calls.  Amazon (AMZN), on the other hand, has picked up the “AI” pace with 48 mentions this quarter.  In Q4 2022 just after ChatGPT’s release, “AI” was mentioned just once on AMZN’s eight prior quarterly calls.

Meta (META) “AI” mentions ticked up even more on its latest call to 71, while Microsoft (MSFT) mentions went the opposite direction and fell from 76 to 61 quarter over quarter.  Alphabet (GOOGL) mentions also dipped a bit but remained high at 75, ranking it second behind only NVIDIA for the most number of “AI” mentions in Q3.

The bull market for stocks this year has coincided with a pullback in inflation, but it has also been driven in large part by mega-cap Tech stocks, that, except for AAPL, are now fully on board the AI wave.  We’ve asked this question rhetorically several times this year, but once again, where would this market be without ChatGPT?

Bespoke’s Morning Lineup – 11/30/23 – Foiled Again

See what’s driving market performance around the world in today’s Morning Lineup.  Bespoke’s Morning Lineup is the best way to start your trading day.  Read it now by starting a two-week trial to Bespoke Premium.  CLICK HERE to learn more and start your trial.

“It usually takes me two or three days to prepare an impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

Morning stock market summary

Below is some introductory commentary of today’s Morning Lineup.  Start a two-week trial to Bespoke Premium to get full access.  

Lower-than-expected inflation data in Europe has stocks around the world in rally mode this morning.  Stocks on the other side of the Atlantic are trading higher across the board with the STOXX 600 up 0.5% and just about every country in the region trading higher by about the same amount. Besides the weaker inflation data, employment data out of Germany showed a slightly higher-than-expected level of joblessness.

Here in the US, futures are also higher following positive earnings results from Salesforce (CRM).  Looking at the economic calendar, it’s a busy day with jobless claims, Personal Income and Spending, and Core PCE just coming out at 8:30 Eastern.  Initial jobless claims were right in line with expectations, but continuing claims were significantly higher than expected.  Personal Income and Spending both rose 0.2% which was right in line with forecasts while Core PCE was right inline with expectations.  The only other reports left for today are Chicago PMI at 9:45 and Pending Home Sales at 10 AM.

Small-cap stocks outperformed the S&P 500 and other major US averages yesterday, but by the end of the session, investors long waiting for the rally to take hold, left the table with their stomachs still growling.  While other major averages have all managed to reclaim both their 50 and 200-day moving averages, the Russell 2000 remains sandwiched between the two above the
50-DMA and below the 200-DMA.

The most frustrating aspect of the last two weeks, though, is that on two separate occasions, the Russell 2000 traded sharply higher early in the session and in the process, broke above its 200-DMA.  Both times, though, they sold off more than 1% from their intraday high ending the session back below the 200-DMA. Maybe the third time will be the charm, but for now, there isn’t a US index that has been more frustrating to investors than the Russell 2000. At some point, small caps will break out, and pundits will be out telling everyone that the ‘easy’ money has already been made. But when you hear that, remember that like an impromptu speech by Mark Twain, or anything that looks easy at the surface, a lot of work behind the scenes usually goes into it.

At this point, maybe we’re just delirious, but are those two intraday spikes and subsequent pullbacks starting to look a little like the horns from the old Merrill Lynch bull?

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The Closer – More Doves, GDP, Beige Book – 11/29/23

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Looking for deeper insight into markets? In tonight’s Closer sent to Bespoke Institutional clients, we begin with some commentary on the additional dovish Fed commentary we received today (page 1) followed by a dive into the latest GDP figures (page 2). Next, we update our Beige Book Index (page 3) in addition to bank balance sheet data (pages 3 and 4).

See today’s full post-market Closer and everything else Bespoke publishes by starting a 14-day trial to Bespoke Institutional today!

Fixed Income Weekly — 11/29/23

Searching for ways to better understand the fixed income space or looking for actionable ideas in this asset class?  Bespoke’s Fixed Income Weekly provides an update on rates and credit each week.  We start off with a fresh piece of analysis driven by what’s in the headlines or driving the market in a given week.  We then provide charts of how US Treasury futures and rates are trading, before moving on to a summary of recent fixed-income ETF performance, short-term interest rates including money market funds, and a trade idea.  We summarize changes and recent developments for a variety of yield curves (UST, bund, Eurodollar, US breakeven inflation, and Bespoke’s Global Yield Curve) before finishing with a review of recent UST yield curve changes, spread changes for major credit products and international bonds, and 1-year return profiles for a cross-section of the fixed income world.

Our Fixed Income Weekly helps investors stay on top of fixed-income markets and gain new perspectives on the developments in interest rates.  You can sign up for a Bespoke research trial below to see this week’s report and everything else Bespoke publishes for the next two weeks!

Click here and start a 14-day free trial to Bespoke Institutional to see our newest Fixed Income Weekly now!

Bespoke’s Global Macro Dashboard — 11/29/23

Bespoke’s Global Macro Dashboard is a high-level summary of 22 major economies from around the world.  For each country, we provide charts of local equity market prices, relative performance versus global equities, price to earnings ratios, dividend yields, economic growth, unemployment, retail sales and industrial production growth, inflation, money supply, spot FX performance versus the dollar, policy rate, and ten year local government bond yield interest rates.  The report is intended as a tool for both reference and idea generation.  It’s clients’ first stop for basic background info on how a given economy is performing, and what issues are driving the narrative for that economy.  The dashboard helps you get up to speed on and keep track of the basics for the most important economies around the world, informing starting points for further research and risk management.  It’s published the last Wednesday of every month at the Bespoke Institutional membership level.

You can access our Global Macro Dashboard by starting a 14-day free trial to Bespoke Institutional now!

Bespoke’s Morning Lineup – 11/29/23 – Legend

See what’s driving market performance around the world in today’s Morning Lineup.  Bespoke’s Morning Lineup is the best way to start your trading day.  Read it now by starting a two-week trial to Bespoke Premium.  CLICK HERE to learn more and start your trial.

“Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” – Warren Buffett

Morning stock market summary

Below is some introductory commentary of today’s Morning Lineup.  Start a two-week trial to Bespoke Premium to get full access.  

Futures are firmly higher this morning with the S&P 500 indicated to open higher by 50 basis points (bps) as treasury yields continue to decline.  It was barely more than a month ago that the yield on the 10-year peaked above 5%, but this morning it’s back below 4.30%. The catalyst for this morning’s rally appears to be positive inflation data out of Europe which has continued the optimism following some dovish Fedspeak yesterday. Economic data this morning has been generally positive as GDP was revised higher and Core PCE was lower than expected.

Whenever a company announces the death of a high-level executive within the organization, the statement always includes some form of boilerplate about how “so and so” was an integral part of the organization, and it wouldn’t be the same without them.  In yesterday’s statement from Berkshire Hathaway announcing the death of Charlie Munger, Buffett’s statement that “Berkshire Hathaway could not have been built to its present status without Charlie’s inspiration, wisdom and participation,” may have sounded a lot like those typical platitudes, but in this case it couldn’t have been truer.

In 31 of the 46 years that Munger was at the company, Berkshire Hathaway outperformed the S&P 500. More importantly, though, in the fifteen years that Berkshire underperformed the S&P 500, the average underperformance was 13.2 percentage points whereas in the 31 years that Berkshire outperformed the S&P 500, the average margin of outperformance was 20.9 percentage points.  So, not only did Berkshire outperform the S&P 500 more than twice as often as it underperformed, but when it did outperform, the gap was much wider than when it underperformed.  The chart below compares the growth of $100 invested in Berkshire Hathaway when Charlie Munger officially joined the firm in 1978 to the growth of $100 invested in the S&P 500 on a total return basis. While $100 invested in the S&P 500 in 1978 is worth $16,527 today, that same $100 invested in Berkshire Hathaway is worth nearly $400,000 today! Not bad for two guys who started out in an Omaha grocery store.

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