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The Market’s Bullish Sign—Plenty of Cash

By Nick Lanyi on October 18, 2016

Professional investors have more of their portfolios in cash than at any time since 9/11.

That’s remarkable—and a hopeful sign for the market in 2017.

As we’ve said before, the U.S. stock market is vulnerable to a correction. Valuations are high, interest rates are likely to move higher, and there’s a not-insignificant chance of an external shock (global economic woes, terrorism, alarming election results). Jim Pearce, Investing Daily’s director of portfolio strategy, has recommended several stocks that could sell at bargain prices if the market corrects. Our other analysts and editors have done the same.

One reason that we’re confident high-quality stocks (and other attractive investments) would rebound after a sell-off is that there’s so much cash sitting on the sidelines, ready to be invested. It’s not as if investors are keeping their cash in fixed-income investments due to high yields; that’s sometimes the case but certainly not now.

On the contrary: You’d have to be nuts to park your cash in money market funds or short-term paper that barely has a positive real yield!

Yet professional money managers’ average cash position is now 5.8%, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s monthly survey. That’s the highest since November 2001, which says a lot considering how fearful investors were after the terrorist attacks. Cash levels have risen fairly steadily since early 2013, when they were below 4%.

Analysts consider a cash level above 4.5% to be bullish, as it indicates that institutional investors’ next likely move will be to buy not sell.

We agree. And we’re ready to take advantage of bargains, both today and if a correction happens.


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