This column originally appeared on
Real Money Pro at 10:21 a.m. EDT on Aug 1.
NEW YORK (Real Money) -- My friend/buddy/pal Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider reported that an algorithm went wild this morning and strangely affected stock prices on the NYSE.
This sort of stuff depresses investor confidence, which is already low.
We shouldn't be surprised that investor sentiment and expectations are very low, as we have seen:
- A decade of underperformance by the U.S. stock market.
Two large drawdowns in stocks in the last decade (2000-2002 and 2008-2009).
The "screwflation" of the middle class in which the average Joe sees stagnating incomes while the cost of the necessities of life rise and buying stocks ends up low on a consumer's list of priorities -- first comes food, shelter, then education, insurance, etc.
The flash crash of 2010 scared the crap out of everyone -- we still don't know the reason for the flash crash, and algos and high-frequency strategies still rule the roost. With retail and hedge funds generally inactive, today's trading is dominated by robots and algorithms. They don't display emotion, remorse or conscience. And they can't read a balance sheet or income statement. They often lead to exaggerated market moves that have no rhyme or reason, further alienating the dominant investors, hedge funds, from being involved. So, how can the sentiment measures take that into account? I would conclude that the bulls who are pointing at downbeat sentiment as a positive might be working with old models that don't reflect the new realities of the marketplace. So poor sentiment may no longer be a positive market tell, as it has been in the past.
Our dysfunctional leaders put partisanship in front of patriotism and effective fiscal policy.
Scandals and loss of investor monies with Madoff, Stanford, MF Global and now Peregrine -- plus, the latest "Liebor" issues -- underscore to many investors that the system is rigged.
One reason why the bullish cabal likes the markets is because sentiment and expectations are sour. But why should an investor be optimistic and feel safe under these circumstances? It will take a great deal of time to win back investor confidence.
In others words -- gulp! -- it is different this time.