BANK OF AMERICA: We've never seen investors rush to sell stocks like this before

Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s big-money stock investors are rushing for the exits.

In a note Tuesday, equity and quant strategist Jill Carey Hall said the firm’s institutional clients were net sellers of stocks for a 14th straight week.

That’s the longest such streak the firm has ever seen.

Together, institutional investors — such as mutual funds and endowment funds — pulled out $2.8 billion from equities last week.

The S&P 500 fell 1.3% last week, its biggest decline since February. Stocks had come within close reach of record highs before pulling back.

On Tuesday, the market was another leg lower, as global markets dipped after some disappointing Chinese manufacturing numbers.

Hall wrote (emphasis ours):

As we noted last week, this has been the longest uninterrupted selling streak in our data history (since ’08) — previously the longest streak was 12 weeks (in late ’10). Persistent sales suggest clients have continued to doubt the rally’s sustainability. Negative equity sentiment has also been echoed by our Sell Side Indicator , which recently generated a contrarian buy signal. Net sales continue to be led by institutional clients, while hedge funds and private clients were also sellers.

Hall noted that investors sold off stocks in fewer sectors last week compared to recent periods. Heathcare saw the largest net sales, as it continues to be hurt by fears of a political clampdown amid an election year, and several investors unwinding their positions.

Investors are getting more positive on industrial stocks. Hall said that’s because in this earnings season, they have bucked the recent trend and seen the biggest beats on profits and revenues. Expectations, however, were set very low.

On Tuesday, BOFA’s head of US and quant strategy Savita Subramanian highlighted that the firm’s sell-side indicator shows Wall Street doesn’t believe in the rally’s continuity.

The indicator is based on the average recommended equity allocation of strategists as of the last business day of every month.

It fell to 51.9 in April, the lowest level in over a year. However, Subramanian said it has historically been a contrarian indicator, as total returns are usually positive most of the time when sentiment becomes this bearish.

“However, past performance is not an indication of future results,” she cautioned.

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