Stocks have shaken off the 5.9% S&P 500 Index drop last Thursday by gaining three days in a row before yesterday’s modest weakness. While researching and reading this week, three charts stood out that tell us quite a good deal about how investors have reacted during this volatile market and what could be next.

“Incredibly, we saw nearly a third of all investors over 65 years old sell their full equity holdings,” explained LPL Financial senior market strategist Ryan Detrick. “With stocks now back near highs, this is yet another reason to have a plan in place before trouble comes, as making decisions when under duress can lead to the exact wrong decision.”

As shown in the LPL Chart of the Day, according to data from Fidelity Investments, nearly 18% of all investors sold their full equity holdings between February and May, while a much higher percentage that were closer to retirement (or in retirement) sold. Some might have bought back in, but odds are that many are feeling quite upset with the record bounce back in stocks here.

Along these same lines, investors have recently moved to cash at a record pace. In fact, there is now nearly $5 trillion in money market funds, almost twice the levels we saw this time only five years ago. Also, the past three months saw the largest three-month change ever, as investors ran to the safety of cash. If you were looking for a reason stocks could continue to go higher over the longer term, there really is a lot of cash on the sidelines right now.

Last, we noted last week that the extreme overbought nature of stocks here is actually consistent with the start of a new bull run, not a bear market bounce, or the end of a bull market. Adding to this, the spread between the number of stocks above their 50-day moving average and 200-day moving average was near the highest level ever. Think about it; with the 45% bounce in the S&P 500, many stocks were above their 50-day moving average, but not nearly as many were above their 200-day moving average. So from a longer-term perspective, there could still be gains to be had.

Sure enough, looking at other times that had wide spreads, they took place near the start of major bull markets. Near-term the potential is there for a well-deserved pullback, but going out 6 to 12 months, stocks have consistently outperformed.


Ryan Detrick is senior market strategist for LPL Financial.