Indecision. Confusion. Inertia. Analysis paralysis. Non-committal behavior. That’s where we are right now.

Against the backdrop of slower economic growth, slowing employment figures, missteps of key NASDAQ players, mixed earnings reports. and dire warnings of a market collapse, investors are afraid to buy or sell.  Volume is even off from a week ago. This inactivity has caused stocks to be range-bound, and based on a series of investor sentiment indicators, retail and institutional investors are decidedly neutral.

For example, the Intelligence Bull/Bear ratio has dropped by 15% in two weeks, to 1.85 Bulls/Bears.  Interestingly, while the number of bulls dropped, bears stayed unchanged. That means that investors in the bullish and neutral categories are essentially the same. If we could see a drop in either bulls or neutrals to get us from the current 21.7% bearish sentiment category to close to the 40% for bulls and neutrals, that would be a bullish signal.

The only saving grace I see from the trend perspective is that the number of investors who believe a correction is in the cards jumped from 30.9% to 38.1% in 2 weeks. Another jump like this would also be a bullish move. 

Although I am more skeptical on this score, the Hulbert NASDAQ Newsletter Sentiment Index has had a quick reversal, which may indicate that bulls may yet rule the day soon, based on current equity allocations. We believe that more pain has to be borne before these indicators point upward.

The Stock Market Today

Whoopi Goldberg once made a very salient point regarding Mother Nature: “That’s the thing about Mother Nature, she doesn’t care what economic bracket you’re in.”

I bring this up because oil prices could see some real volatility this week and serve as and external force on stocks. The wildfires in Alberta Canada have already impacted and destroyed some oil fields and based on the size and scope could burn for months with smoke a major issue in Alberta and even into Saskatchewan. Not exactly a positive for Canada and perhaps prompt a modest oil supply rise.

Of course this months-long event could be a drop in the bucket compared with what is happening in Saudi Arabia. Not only is the kingdom of the House of Saud planning to implement a $2 trillion plan to wean itself off of the production, sale and use of oil, which was announced last month, but it just fired its oil minister. If the new minister maintains the same production policy, oil prices will remain in its current range. If he is inclined to limit production, prices will rise. Weighing this event against a potentially slowing economy around much of the world could be rough for us all.

The market needs signs, signals, and direction. In the absence of these tools, we will be range-bound to down for the interim. So where will these come from? We would not be surprised to see stock buybacks, and performance of companies in various stock conferences play a role for now. If there is no driving need to buy a stock today because earnings growth is back-end loaded, or buybacks are weak, look for more red ahead. As for groups, I think investors are falling asleep on cheap small cap consumer stocks.

Say What?

Great info, insights, and hard-hitting stories make up this week’s Say What? feature...

The New York Times

Quite excellent. Short and to the point. Written by Harvard prof.



The New York Post

This is actually really funny.


Sounds familiar but we may not quite be there yet.


This event and the craziness on the DC Metro makes me think there is more to thIS (as in ISIS) than meets the eye.

Notable Numbers

AAII Sentiment Survey (figures rounded)

  Current Last Week Long Term Avg
Bullish 22% 27% 39%
Neutral 47% 44% 31%
Bearish 30% 29% 30%

As we noted earlier, we are really in Neutral. Of all the surveys and polls, I am most encouraged by the AAII results. Bulls are far below the long term average and we could see a migration from Neutral to Bearish which would be very positive. Conversely, the Bears in the Ticker Sense poll are unchanged from a week ago but the Neutral group is on the rise again. Look, when big names like Apple (NASDAQ—AAPL) are not in favor, then indices like the NASDAQ Composite falls out of favor and that has an effect on all stocks, to some degree. Stock to your guns and don’t overpay stock price momentum or valuation-wise and you can still generate solid returns. Note: Equity fund outflows, led largely by ETFs were $11B a week ago, the largest in many weeks.  More of this can lead to real buying opportunities later this month.

Take a Chance on Me?

After kicking butt for much of the past few months, we finally blew it. Lionbridge Technologies (NASDAQ—LIOX—$4.26—NR) dropped by about 15% on results that did not meet expectations. Mea culpa.

Well, if you like to bottom fish and dip your toes in the water on something that might turn out to a big winner or continue to go south, I have got one for you.

On the surface, Perion Network Ltd. (NASDAQ -$1.50) looks like it should be trading 3x its current price. Perion is a global technology company that delivers high-quality advertising solutions to brands and publishers, with an emphasis on mobile, video, monetization solutions, etc. PERI is no small company. For 2015, the Company generated $218M in sales (down from 2014 due to a change in company focus), has been profitable for more than 10 years, and services 1300 advertisers and publishers. Moreover, 15 of the top 20 global advertisers use the Company’s platform.

For 1Q16, historically the industry’s weakest, Wall Street is looking for $70M in revenue, a 34% rise from last year, with EPS of $0.04, down from $0.19, due to the change in business focus. For the year, projections call for top-line growth of over 50% to $340M with EPS of $0.41. We should note that the Company has beaten quarterly estimates four straight quarters.

At current levels, the stock trades at a stupid 3.7x this year’s EPS, and .3x revenue. Granted, EPS comparisons are weak but the growth is there, aided in large part by tremendous acquisitions. Plus, the balance sheet remains strong. Results are due out on Tuesday May 10th, and the stock hit a new 52-week low last week. Still, it seems that there is a lot of value here and it could be a double in six months, if expectations are met. Otherwise, we could see a 20% drop. In my view, the risk/reward is in opportunistic and patient investors hands, who could still buy it cheap after the Q is released.