Just a few weeks ago at the tail end of July we posted a story showing the intense level of insider selling. Well, that has reversed according to Mark Hulbert.
- But there is one group that appears to be doing so (buying). And they have a history of being more right than wrong about the market's direction. I'm referring to corporate insiders, a group that includes corporate officers, directors, and largest shareholders. You may recall that, three weeks ago, corporate insiders were selling at an abnormally high pace. By one measure, in fact, they were then selling at the fastest pace in the nearly 40 years that insider data had been collected.
- With the Dow Jones Industrial Average now more than 1,400 points lower, the insiders appear to be shifting back to the buy side in a big way.
- Consider an insider indicator calculated by the Vickers Weekly Insider Report, published by Argus Research. This indicator is a ratio of the number of shares that insiders have sold to the number that they have bought.
- For insiders transactions last week, according to the latest issue of the Vickers service, which I received late Monday night, this sell-to-buy ratio stood at 1.68-to-1. That's bullish, according to Vickers, since the long-term average level for this ratio is between 2 and 2.5 to 1.
- To further put the current level of this ratio into context, consider that in the week ending July 22, this ratio stood at 6.43-to-1. And among those companies whose stocks are listed on the NYSE and the AMEX, the ratio during that week stood at 13.10-to-1 — which is the highest, and most bearish, reading for the ratio since Vickers began collecting data in 1974.
- Further confirmation that the insiders are responding in true contrarian fashion to the market's plunge: Vickers' sell-to-buy ratio steadily improved last week as the market dropped. For transactions just last Friday, for example, the day after the Dow's 513-point plunge, the ratio stood at an extraordinarily bullish 0.33-to-1.
- To be sure, you should never throw caution to the winds when following any one stock market indicator. After all, the insiders aren't always right. And even when they are, the market doesn't always respond as immediately as it did following their record level of selling in mid July. Still, it is comforting that a group of investors who presumably know more about their companies' prospects that the rest of us consider the low prices of their stocks to represent attractive bargains.