Stock market sell signal almost triggered for the first time in five years

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch Bull/Bear indicator last week hit the highest level since its last sell signal, just as U.S. President Donald Trump took credit, once again, for the surge in the stock market.

The indicator jumped to 7.9, breathing on the neck of the 8 level that represents the sell signal. The last time this indicator went above 8 was in January 2013.

The indicator has given 11 sell signals since 2002, and its hit ratio has been 11/11, according to the analysts at BofAML.

On average, the equity peak-to-trough drop in the following three months after the sell signal was triggered has been 12%. The last time the indicator flashed a buy signal was in February 2016.

The analysts called last week’s market situation the “non-stop euphoric cabaret”: equity funds saw record $33.2 billion inflows, with active funds getting a record $12.2 billion.

Perhaps investors are rediscovering active management funds at a time when central banks are not as keen as they used to be to prop up all assets, and as inflation could finally make an appearance in something other than property and stock markets.

In such a torrid week (in the markets; the weather was rather cold), there is little wonder the Bull/Bear indicator is nearing extremely bullish conditions:

Bull Bear Indicator

The Bull/Bear indicator is very close to the sell signal.

Looking at the hottest destinations for capital last week, perhaps unsurprisingly, emerging markets saw the strongest inflows, at $8.1 billion. It was their second best week of inflows on record.

US equities came second, with inflows worth $7 billion, followed by Europe with $4.6 billion and Japan with $3.4 billion.

By sector, technology saw record inflows worth $2.1 billion, followed by financials, utilities and energy. Investors withdrew capital from real estate, materials, consumer stocks and healthcare.

In fixed income, investment grade bond funds have seen inflows for 57 weeks in a row, getting another $2 billion last week. By contrast, high-yield bond funds have seen outflows for 11 of the past 13 weeks, and last week saw another $2.5 billion pouring out.

Emerging market debt has seen another week of inflows, with $1.6 billion going in, while Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) saw record inflows for another straight week, worth $1.7 billion.

Will the Bull/Bear indicator turn back from the brink of the sell signal in the week ahead? The weak dollar seems to be a boon for equities, at least in the US, so it looks like stocks could still power ahead. But the moment of a correction is getting close.

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