“Following the Wall Street crowd of analysts is rarely the way to make money,” writes Barry Ritholtz, an analyst. This somewhat paradoxical comment is in response to a story about how, despite bullish earnings forecasts, US equity analysts’ recommendations are the most bearish they’ve ever been. (Or rather, the most bearish since 1997, when Bloomberg started keeping records of such things.)
Indeed, the share of “sell” and “hold” ratings, at around 70% of all recommendations so far this year, is exceptional in recent history. Although outright “sell” ratings the lowest they’ve been in many years, the ranks of “hold” ratings are very large by historical standards. And as a money manager tells Bloomberg, “A ‘neutral’ usually means historically a ‘sell.'” If the contrarians are to be believed, the current pessimism on the part of analysts is as bullish a sign for stocks as CEOs on magazine covers and stock tips from shoeshine boys are bearish for investors.