The usefulness of sentiment's stealth crystal ball is about to be revealed to the litany of unsuspecting precious metal bears and skeptics who have convinced themselves that gold's bull market is either over or, at the minimum, in need of lengthy ongoing retesting, restructuring and consolidation.
This article will bring us up to date as to the degree of current bearish sentiment regarding both gold and silver using no fewer than five sentiment indicators (with nine illustrative charts), as well as provide the reader with an opportunity to observe the price outcome of previous bearish extremes using these sentiment indicators.
When we begin the sentiment indicator discussion we will look at charts of the put/call volume ratio (options) of SPDR's Gold Trust ETF (GLD) and iShares Silver Trust ETF (SLV), then examine Hulbert's Gold Sentiment Index, followed by the Blees Rating, then gold's Commercial and Non-Reportable (futures) traders positioning detailed in the most recent Commitment of Traders Report (COT) from the CFTC, and conclude with a daily gold futures price chart that includes the corresponding readings of the Ulcer Index indicator.
But first, let's briefly consider the concept of investor sentiment.
My observation is that sentiment's crystal ball, particularly when observed at an extreme, works reliably despite conflicting and clever arguments of either a technical or fundamental nature, and plays the ultimate trump card in foretelling a market's reversal of price direction.
Sometimes the occurrence of a high volume "capitulation selling" event provides the most obvious observation of sentiment exhaustion. But there are numerous other means to assess this phenomenon and we will get to these shortly.
Sentiment extremes, simply put, tell us that there are too many traders at one end of the boat and therefore the boat is about to tip over. Sentiment can strongly suggest that the trade, as some say, has become "crowded." When someone finally yells "fire" in the "crowded" room there are so many of the market's participants motivated to get out the same door and in the same direction that most get trampled — unable to reverse their trade fast enough.
Another way of characterizing a sentiment extreme is to say that the trade simply runs out of buyers or sellers, as the case may be. The extreme price momentum in one direction "exhausts" itself of all available ammunition to continue the trend and is sometimes signaled when someone yells "fire" in the "crowded" room, but often comes to a conclusion unrecognized by most traders as price reverses direction in an unassuming manner.
Yet another saying is "when everyone is thinking the same thing, then no one is thinking." The sentiment indicators we will look at today will give us a clear sense as to whether this saying is potentially a significant and foretelling factor in future precious metal price movement.
And yes, there are indeed two players for each trade — the buyer and the seller. In our present precious metals situation, this leads us to consider the concept of shares moving from "weak" hands to "strong" hands.