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Even Pros Don't Like Stocks: Could That Be Bullish Sign?

Wall Street strategists are the most negative they've been on stocks since the bull marketbegan more than three years ago.

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The consensus view of U.S. equity strategists from major banks is for investors to allocate just 52 percent of their portfolio to stocks and the rest to fixed income, commodities or cash, according to a Bloomberg survey.

This is the lowest allocation for stocks since the nearly 50 percent level that the survey reached back in March 2009.

“I’m with the strategists,” said Enis Taner, global macro editor at RiskReversal.com. “There are just too many warning signs from other markets like FX, Treasurys and credit.”

Consider all the bad news coming out: Greece is without a government and has everyone wondering if it will stay in the euro zone. China’s industrial outputis expanding at the slowest pace in almost three years. Throw in spotty U.S. jobs dataand a retail investor confidence hit from JPMorgan’s $2 billion trading lossand one has an environment not exactly constructive for stocks.

“There are too many things to worry about for me to feel comfortable investing in risk assets,” said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services. “A deteriorating picture in Europe combined with a slowing domestic economy has me solidly cautious.”

Though stocks recovered on Wednesday, the S&P 500 is near a three-month low and the euro continues to lose ground against the dollar.

Still, many traders actually take all this negativity as a contrarian signal to invest in stocks. After all, a new bull market began the last time strategists recommended owning this little in stocks. The contrarians reason that if Wall Street’s clients have listened to the strategists, then there is no one left to sell and the market can go higher.

“We already know that investors of all types currently hate stocks, and now strategists love them as much as they did at the depths of the financial crisis as well,” wrote Justin Walters, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group. “Sounds like a buying opportunity to us.”

Bespoke, known for its in-depth historical analysis, has the data to back this viewpoint up. It seems when strategists hate stocks most, it is usually near the best time to buy.

The bulls argue that equities deserve more respect, if only because they offer the best alternative versus other asset classes.

The 10-year Treasury yields well below 2 percent right now. And gold has been pummeled during this latest pullback in stocks, shedding its traditional safe haven status.

“It’s Wall Street rule No. 1,” said Dave Lutz of Stifel Nicolaus. “The market will do whatever hurts the most people, the worst.”

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