NAAIM Trend Survey Of Manager Sentiment

Includes: DIA, QQQ, SPY
by: Babak

Here’s an up and coming sentiment tool that I discovered. It is released weekly by the National Association of Active Investment Managers (NAAIM), a non-profit association of registered investment advisors formed in 1989. Since the (200 or so) member advisors provide active money management services to their clients, as opposed to buy and hold, they position their portfolios according to their opinions of the market’s future. In reality every portfolio is actively managed because there is no way to be passive.

In any case, each week on Wednesday, the advisors communicate their equity exposure by choosing one of the following answers:

  • 200% — Leveraged Short
  • 100% — Fully Short
  • 0% — 100% Cash or Hedged to Market Neutral
  • 100% — Fully Invested
  • 200% — Leveraged Long

Their answers are then averaged to produce the NAAIM Trend Survey of Manager Sentiment:

NAAIM Survey of Manager Sentiment

Although we only have two and a half years of sentiment data and a relatively small sample size, this sentiment indicator shows promise. To start its extremes correspond to tops and bottoms in the S&P 500. For example, when active managers reduced their exposure to “neutral” in late August 2007 and July 2008, we saw the S&P 500 find its feet again.

But the latest active managers sentiment is somewhat troubling because even as the market weakness has continued for several months, they have positioned their portfolios more and more aggressively long. Once again we are seeing that we do not have a “wash-out” or complete capitulation. On the contrary, everyone it seems is even more hopeful… as the market falls even lower!

Although the NAAIM data is weekly, it comes out with a delay. The latest result is for January 14th 2009. I’ll update the chart when the new data is released or when it tells us some other interesting things about the market.

If you want to get more information or download the raw data to play around with it, you can do so at the NAAIM website.