One of the joys of conducting analyses of historical market patterns is the discovery of relationships you hadn't anticipated. Sometimes those are mere anomalies; other times, they represent discoveries.
In my recent posts, I've been analyzing the put/call data for individual equities and for the equity indexes. As I was looking at relative put/call ratios for the equities (how the current ratio compares to the average ratio for a given lookback period), I noticed that we have had quite an elevated relative put/call ratio over the past four trading sessions. In other words, the put/call ratios for the past four sessions have been high (skewed toward puts) relative to the 20-day average ratios.
I decided to take a closer look at four-day elevations in the relative equity put/call ratio going back to 2004 (N = 734). When the put/call ratio for the past four trading sessions is more than 20% greater than its 20-day moving average (N = 62), the next 15 days in the S&P 500 Index (SPY) have averaged a gain of 1.31% (46 up, 16 down), quite a bullish bias. To state it otherwise, when the options traders shift heavily toward put volume over a twenty-day period, the next three weeks in the S&P 500 Index have dramatically outperformed their average. That would bolster the bull case for the start of 2007.
Now for the unexpected finding:
When the relative equity put/call ratio has been 10% or more beneath its 20-day moving average (N = 85), the next 15 days in SPY have averaged a *gain* of .95% (60 up, 25 down), again quite a bullish edge. We are accustomed to thinking of a low put/call ratio as extreme optimism and hence a bearish market indication. It appears, however, that when bullish sentiment shifts strongly over a 20-day period, the shift has bullish implications over the following three weeks.
I will be refining the methods I use to assess relative options movement, so consider this a work in progress. What I hope to determine is whether *changes* in sentiment are more important to market outcomes than absolute levels of sentiment themselves.