There's A Big Debate Over Whether This Sell-Off Is Just Profit Taking Or The Start Of Something More

Following a 28% rise to all-time highs in 2013, the S&P 500 has fallen 4% in 2014.

Naturally, everyone wants to know what is driving the sell-off.

Ian Lyngen, a senior government bond strategist at CRT Capital, relays the results of a survey of clients conducted this week that sought to answer this question.

Respondents were pretty split in their views.

“Our special questions asked if the recent risk sell-off vs. Treasury rally was a short-term profit-taking event or more thematic,” says Lyngen.

“40% said profit-taking with the balance, 60%, saying thematic.”

The chart shows what themes respondents perceive to be at work in the marketplace.

“When asked what themes were at hand, we got the most votes for weakness in global markets — EM and China specifically cited — with 36% of the blame,” says Lyngen.

“Following on that was tapering by the Fed with 24%, and then strategic allocations to lock in risk performance with 20%. 10% went to weaker U.S. data due to weather, with another 10% to ‘other.’ Other in this case was largely about positions and a generic weaker outlook for the U.S.”

Respondents to the survey see these themes playing out for several more months.

“Finally, we asked how long this lasts, and here the average came to about four months, with surrounding commentary about letting QE wind down further and waiting to see how EM and economies in general develop,” says Lyngen.

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