A Truly Embarrassing Chart For Wall Street Stock Analysts

Only five per cent of ratings on companies in the S&P 500 are sell ratings.

That’s right: 95 per cent of ratings tell investors to hold or buy and only 5 per cent say you should sell.

The following chart comes from FactSet via Cullen Roche:

chart

Henry Blodget recently offered a few reasons why you rarely see sell ratings:

  • Most stocks–especially growth stocks–generally trend up over the long haul, so saying SELL often means betting against the odds and/or making a short-term timing call.
  • Stocks with excellent fundamentals don’t often go down just because they’re “expensive”–instead, they just get more expensive. So saying “SELL” based solely on valuation often sets the analyst up to be wrong.
  • The lack of SELL ratings makes SELL ratings sound like a complete condemnation of the company, to the point where it seems the analyst has a vendetta against it. The more polite way to tell people to sell, most folks on Wall Street whisper, is to say “hold”–or just ignore the stock altogether.
  • The issuance of a SELL rating often drives a stock down, hurting investors who own it. These investors will not usually say “thank you.” Instead, they’ll want your head.
  • Most investors are long-only, meaning they can only buy stocks, not short them. Thus, “SELL” ratings are only useful to hedge funds and investors who already own stocks.
  • Most companies refuse to talk to analysts who hit them with SELL ratings, thus reducing the analyst’s ability to gather information about the company.

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