As often stated in my weekly Words from the Wise reviews, a confidence indicator worth monitoring is the Barron's Confidence Index. This Index is calculated by dividing the average yield on high-grade bonds by the average yield on intermediate-grade bonds. The discrepancy between the yields is indicative of investor confidence. There has been a solid improvement in the ratio since its all-time low in December, showing that bond investors are growing more confident and have started opting for more speculative bonds over high-grade bonds.

Barron's

Barron's Confidence index,Source: Plexus Asset Management (based on data from I-Net Bridge)

Not surprisingly, a strong historical relationship exists between the Barron's Confidence Index and the S&P 500's 12-month rate of change.

Barron's

Barron's Confidence Index vs. S&P 500 Y/Y% Change, Source: Plexus Asset Management (based on data from I-Net Bridge)

The improvement in the Barron's indicator augurs well for the outlook for equities - specifically for the return of confidence - and provides further evidence that US stock markets are in all likelihood mapping out a base development formation. However, in the short term I still maintain it is quite likely that markets could consolidate further and possibly retrace more of the prior gains.