The surge in pessimism has come with a corresponding slide in bullishness. Optimism tumbled 17 percentage points during the week, falling to 20.9 percent and representing the worst level since May 25, 2016. Neutral sentiment edged down 1.3 percentage points to 30.2 percent, just below its historical average of 31 percent.
Those hoping the market turns around actually can take some solace from the AAII numbers. Such sentiment indicators are contrarian in nature, particularly at extremes, and this survey is no different.
In fact, the last time the bears were this plentiful presaged a sharp turn higher. The S&P 500 rallied 16 percent from the April 11 low through the end of 2013.
Investor behavior has gotten more defensive lately, with money flowing out of equity funds and cash allocations among AAII respondents hitting a 33-month high in November.
In this week’s survey, investors remained generally upbeat about the economy, with 25 percent expecting a continued expansion in 2019 though at a slower pace. Just 13 percent see a recession in the year ahead.
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