Investors Flock Back to Stocks
Some professionals believe that retail investors are an excellent contrary indicator. They claim it’s a good time to buy when the man on the street throws in the towel and vows to stay away from stocks; and it’s a good time to sell when retail investors come flocking back into the market. Well, it seems the flocking has begun.
Retail investors have pretty much avoided stocks ever since the financial crisis of 2008. What scared them was the 38.5% decline in the S&P 500 that year. Diversification provided no protection as correlations jumped and everything sold off. But by getting out of the market, they missed the 23.5% rally in 2009 and the 12.8% gain in 2010. The market finished flat in 2011, but there was tremendous volatility. The S&P 500 moved up or down by at least 1% on 69 trading days during the second half of the year alone. Investors, of course, don’t like losing money; and they dislike volatility almost as much.
The markets really settled down in 2012 and the S&P 500 climbed 13.4%. It seems that the reduced volatility and the double-digit gain were enough to entice many investors back. U.S. equity funds pulled in $18.3 billion during the first full week of trading this year. That is the fourth largest amount of weekly inflows ever. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, saw huge inflows of money into its passively managed equity funds during the fourth quarter of 2012. The pace of inflows has continued into 2013. Some of this is new money, but much of it came out of bond funds; and BlackRock said that at least some of the money came out of actively managed equity funds.
There have been many times in the past when investors got out of bonds and into stocks at the wrong time; but there is something a little different about this rotation. Although investors are flocking back to stocks, they are not interested in making their own picks. Instead, they are going into passively managed index funds, especially exchange-traded funds.
Several years ago I had the privilege of hosting Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, for lunch. Mr. Bogle is a long-time advocate for passive investing. Although he isn’t fond of ETFs (because he thinks they encourage trading), he must be very pleased with the growing interest in index investing. Let’s just hope this rotation is not signalling another market top.
Vahan Janjigian is Chief Investment Officer at Greenwich Wealth Management, LLC, a SEC Registered Investment Adviser, where he manages portfolios for clients in separate accounts. Dr. Janjigian is a former Forbes magazine columnist and former Editor of the Forbes Special Situation Survey. According to Hulbert Interactive, his stock picks returned more than 18% annually during one of the market’s worst 10-year periods.
Dr. Janjigian holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation and has earned degrees in general sciences and finance from Villanova University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). He previously served on the faculties of several universities, including the University of Delaware, Northeastern University, the American University of Armenia, and Boston College, where he taught courses in corporate finance, financial theory, investments, accounting, and economics; and he currently teaches a seminar on equity investment management to business executives in Singapore through Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business. Dr. Janjigian has served as an expert witness on matters involving portfolio management, churning, suitability, and hedge fund manager compensation.
Dr. Janjigian has published his research in numerous scholarly and professional journals; and has been quoted in many leading newspapers and magazines, including Barron’s, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He appears as a guest commentator on various television and radio networks, including Fox, CNBC, MSNBC, and CBS Radio. Dr. Janjigian is the author of Even Buffett Isn’t Perfect (published by Penguin) and co-author of The Forbes/CFA Institute Investment Course (published by Wiley).