From the desk of Willie Delwiche.
Key Takeaway: Bullish sentiment is on the rise. The bears may be reluctant to leave the party, but the bulls squarely outnumber their counterparts. The AAII survey shows bulls exceeding bears by two-to-one, and the II bull-bear spread is back within a high optimism zone. At the same time, options markets reveal that volatility and fear are being replaced by complacency. Though optimism has risen sharply during the past few weeks, current levels do not present risk. However, problems may arise when the lofty expectations associated with the sentiment backdrop are not met.
While risk appetite has returned (NASDAQ and CBOE equity options volume have turned sharply higher), this is not translating into clear strength from higher risk (e.g. risk on) parts of the market. To the extent that our risk on / risk off ratio has been moving higher, it has more to do with risk off weakness than because of risk on strength. Our pairwise comparison of higher risk and lower risk assets does not show a decisive tilt toward higher risk outperformance in recent months. Optimism that gets rewarded can fuel further strength, optimism that is frustrated can lead to regret.