It appears as though American corporate executives are developing a bearish sentiment for the future of the U.S. equity markets.
According to a recent article published in the Wall Street Journal, the volume of insider buying—the purchase of shares of stock in a corporation by executives of that company—has fallen to new lows while the level of insider selling has been on the rise. In fact, the ratio of insider buyers to insider sellers is now at the lowest point it has ever been since President Reagan was in office 29 years ago. This could indicate that executives are not as optimistic as the rest of the market about how the economy will respond to the policies of the Trump administration. (For related reading, see: Have $2 Trillion in Buybacks Paid Off? )
Insiders Want Bargains
The article in the Journal cited data from a report published by The Washington Service, a market research firm, that found that January 2017 saw the lowest recorded amount of insider buyers since the year 1988 with a mere 279 executives purchasing stock in their own companies.
Corporate executives have been slightly less bullish on U.S. stocks for quite some time now. An article published on Bloomberg at the end of December 2016 noted that, “[i]nsiders at a majority of S&P 500 Index companies didn’t purchase any of their firm’s shares in the open market” that year. (For more, see also: Not Buying the Trump Rally? Here Are BAML's Contrarian Plays.)
One of the possible reasons for that could be the fact that stock values have continued to soar for the ninth consecutive year in a row. Insiders typically purchase their stocks in large quantities when they feel as though their company’s share price is undervalued. Analysts at the research firm FactSet are forecasting that the price-to-earnings ratio for the S&P 500 will be 17.7. That figure is up from the five-year average of 15.0 as well as the 10-year average of 13.9.
Largest Insider Selling Activity
According to data compiled by CNBC, the retail and industrial services industry have seen the largest insider activity in sales over the last 12 months. The list of companies with the largest insider selling activity include: Quad/Graphics, Inc. (QUAD), Foot Locker (FL) and Lowe's Companies (LOW).