If Inspector Gadget or Maxwell Smart had lived in the digital age, their bosses would have used the smartphone app Snapchat to deliver their secret missions.
Snapchat is a popular app with about 8 million users that lets your smartphone send a photo that self-destructs seconds after your recipient views it. As of September 2013, users were sending about 350-400 million vanishing messages a day -- which compares with the 127.5 million shares that changed hands in the Dow on Jan. 27, 2014.
But when Evan Spiegel, the Stanford student who came up with the idea, unveiled it to his product design class in 2011, his classmates gave it a thumbs-down. Disappearing photos? Who will use it? Little did his classmates know how the app, originally called Picaboo, would go on to capture the attention of teenagers and young adults. And even a few older folks who want to connect with them, such as 51-year-old Senator Rand Paul, who recently signed up to woo younger voters.
The idea of the disappearing photo applies beautifully to the situation in the stock market today. Pessimists on stocks are disappearing quickly. And so are bearish analysts. Not in 10 seconds, but they are still doing a version of a Snapchat disappearing act. Here's how The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast describes it (emphasis added) in this excerpt from our just-released 2014 State of the Global Markets report:
From The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, December 2013
Our list of rare optimistic extremes is growing. This chart shows that advisors are now more optimistic about the stock market than they've been in 26 years. The middle graph displays the bull/bear ratio from the Investors Intelligence weekly advisors' survey (InvestorsIntelligence.com). Bullish advisors outnumber bearish ones by a four-to-one margin for the first time in over 2½ decades...
And it's not just advisors. Assets invested in bull funds in the Rydex family of mutual funds is 5.3 times the assets in bear funds, an all-time record ratio. The bottom graph shows the total assets in Rydex's government money market fund, which just dropped to a new all-time low on a daily and 5-day basis. This record low in money fund assets indicates a record desire to own stocks and bonds and a record disinterest in investment conservatism. These measures are as bell-ringingly bearish as any we have shown in the 14-year history of this newsletter.
But what does it mean for the markets when most of the bears capitulate to bullish optimism? Not exactly what you might think. Here's how the article continues:
The Nov. 11 issue of The Wall Street Journal delivered another key piece:
Stocks Regain Broad Appeal
Mom-and-Pop Investors Are Back
The buyers, many with investment portfolios that were scorched during the market meltdown, are climbing aboard a ride to new highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The article cites several "propelling" forces behind individuals' re-entry that are actually classic by-products of a terminating mania. The main one is that a heightened state of optimism causes people to buy simply because prices are high and rising. The WSJ article cites the case of a 65-year old real estate appraiser who returned to stocks "when he saw a market pundit predict the Dow, up 167.80 on Friday, could hit 20,000 this year. 'I still think there's huge upside in the stock market,' he said. 'I don't want to miss out.'"... A Citigroup corporate finance expert illustrates that professionals are not immune to the bullish vibes: "This year feels like it did earlier in my career, when I had the optimism to say, 'I'm really going to have a retirement.' It feels a lot better now."
Of course it does; that's what happens near a top. The former remorse and inexplicable negative feelings have completely vanished, which means the uptrend that started five years ago should be exhausted.
Is that what you expected to read?
Elliott Wave International has been sending out pictures (that is, charts) of a bearish market for a while now -- and they do not self-destruct in 10 seconds, a month or a year. No Snapchats of a bear about to turn bullish here. And if you want to get EWI's take on Snapchat itself, read on:
BACK TO THE VANISHING POINT FOR TECH
From The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast, December 2013
With the share price of mainstream technology companies such as Google, Netflix and Priceline hitting new all-time highs in November, the dot-com revival is closing in on its original late-'90s insanity. Among the many resurfacing symptoms of the old fever are reports of "eye-popping" "vanity metrics." The term vanity metrics refers to late 1999 and early 2000 valuation methods under which the standard devolved from price/earnings to price/sales to price/click ratios.
Reuters reports that "valuations for high-flying startups" are once again "hitting nosebleed levels," as "the obsession with 'eyeballs,' or raw numbers of website visitors that defined the dot-com boom of the late 1990s," is back. Reuters cites Snapchat as a prototypical example. Snapchat is a startup company based on an app that allows smartphone users to send pictures that vanish after a few seconds. The company claims users are sending 400 million "snaps" a day, but it refuses to explain exactly what constitutes a snap. It also has no profits or revenues. Nevertheless, the company's 23-year-old founder turned down a $3 billion buyout offer from Facebook "based on hypothetical revenue." Financial writers said the decision made sense because Snapchat can get more from a Chinese e-commerce company or in an IPO.
We disagree and think this kid will be kicking himself for the rest of his life. The company may indeed get lucky, but we've been down this road before. The vanishing picture app may someday become a metaphor for Silicon Valley's last hurrah.
You can get more of this kind of clear-eyed analysis in EWI's new annual report, The State of the Global Markets -- 2014 Edition. EWI is offering some of the choicest selections culled from the 50-page report to Club EWI members.