Updated from 3:41 p.m. ET to reflect market close, additional analyst commentary from S&P Capital IQ.
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Wall Street analysts are historically a bullish lot but the 20%-plus surge in the major U.S. equity indices since early October has eroded some of that optimism of late.
According to FactSet Research, the total percentage of buy ratings for S&P 500 companies has dropped to 51% as of March 1 vs. 54% on Dec. 31. The slack was picked up by hold ratings, which went to 44% from 42%, and sell ratings, now 5% vs. 4% at year-end. Those percentages are based on a total of 11,035 ratings on S&P 500 companies, FactSet said.
This was the second month in a row that analysts reduced their buy ratings, while increasing hold and sell ratings. Seven of the 10 sectors within the index saw a decrease in buy ratings with the financials, a market leader so far this year, hit hardest with a 5% decline.
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