NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The smart money got more bearish in June, although you wouldn't know it by the surge in stocks over the past two weeks.
According to the latest TrimTabs/BarclayHedge survey of hedge fund managers, 38% of the 87 managers polled described themselves as bearish about the S&P 500 last month, up from 29% in May. It was the highest percentage of bearishness since February. Those identifying as bullish came in at 27% in June, down from 30% in May.
"Downbeat views on domestic stocks characterized the first half of 2011," said Sol Waksman, founder and President of BarclayHedge, in a statement. "Hedge fund managers were net bearish on the S&P 500 in four of the first six months of the year."
With the S&P 500 up 7.6% year-to-date on a price basis, the smart money isn't looking so smart, of course, but the majority of that appreciation (more than 5%) has come since June 24, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of shift in sentiment takes place this month."The recent correction in stock prices gave rise to fear," said Vincent Deluard, an executive vice president at TrimTabs. "Margin debt decreased for the first time in 11 months, short interest increased to the highest level in six months, and the speculative crowd turned net sellers of equity futures. But equities have rebounded smartly because recent economic data shows that the soft patch was not the start of something more serious, and we are interested to see how managers adjust." The survey also found that 74% of hedge fund managers don't think the Federal Reserve will uncork another round quantitative easing, that 64% are expecting corporate earnings to weaken over the next two quarters, and that 39% see the economy slipping into recession in the next year. As for Friday, the main event has been discussed ad nausem all week: The Labor Department is set to release the June employment report at 8:30 a.m. ET. The consensus economists' estimate is for nonfarm payrolls to swell by 80,000, according to Briefing.com with the unemployment rate seen stuck at 9.1%. Thursday's better than expected jobs data contributed to Thursday's rally in stocks, along with strong same-store sales, so Wall Street is clearly confident the report will be a strong one. Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, notes that the ADP private payrolls report has undershot the federal number in 10 of the past 12 months, coming in an average of 45,000 below in the months it was below. Using this as a guide, Shepherdson sees the potential for a blowout number, saying: "[W]e think a forecast of a 200K gain in tomorrow's private payroll number makes sense." Since he expects government payrolls to dip by 25,000, Shepherdson expects the overall payrolls number to come in at 175,000 for June. Even with the recent gains, stocks would likely finish the week in fine fashion if that comes to pass. The other economic data on tap for Friday is wholesale inventories at 10 a.m. ET and consumer credit at 3 p.m. ET.
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