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Stocks  | September 4, 2019

When equity markets tumbled in August, one group of investors showed unshakable confidence: company insiders. So much that the buy-to-sell ratio of corporate executives in Europe reached its highest level since December, according to data compiled by 2iQ Research.

Such spike in the ratio -- it reached 3.3 in August -- is usually seen by market strategists as a contrarian buy-signal for equities. Top-level managers are considered to have superior knowledge of their businesses, and know when their company’s stock trade at bargain prices.

When markets sank in the fourth quarter last year, insiders piled up their own stocks, with the buy-to-sell ratio surging to 10.4 in October and staying high in November and December. That was followed by a 16% rally in the Stoxx 600 in the next four months of 2019.

Last month saw “a lot of buying activity in Europe, and the U.S. too,” says Patrick Hable, managing partner at 2iQ.

The insider buying activity contrasts with other investment flows and the light equity positioning among fund managers. JPMorgan strategists including Mislav Matejka write that they haven’t seen inflows into stocks returning, from neither retail nor institutional investors. Their prime-brokerage services indicate a subdued net exposure to shares across all regions, which could somehow limit the downside.

The strategists have just turned positive on stocks, arguing momentum has improved. They had previously called for two tactical corrections, in May and August, and now expect the market will be higher by the end of the year. Their “template” remains the 2015-2016 correction that was turned around by the Fed pausing its hikes, a peak in the dollar and Chinese stimulus -- a similar pattern to the current situation. The view concurs with another buy signal from last week, when the BofAML Bull & Bear model showed its first bullish reading since early January.

That said, many remain skeptical, particularly on the buy-side, with concerns recently expressed by UBS Wealth Management and Legal & General. The volatility of the Euro Stoxx 50 is still elevated compared to its average since 2017, as investors remain cautious about trade tensions, and await further signals from central banks.

Next week will be crucial on that front: traders expect a broad package of measures from the ECB meeting. That might be a problem, according to UBS economists, who see room for disappointment, particularly on the extent of a rate cut.


A revolutionary initiative is helping average Americans find quick and lasting stock market success.

275% in one week on XLF - an index fund for the financial sector. Even 583%, in 7 days on XHB… an ETF of homebuilding companies in the S&P 500. 


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