Corporate Insiders Send Most Bullish Stock Signal Since ‘99

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(Bloomberg) -- In this once-in-a-generation market meltdown, brave souls in the business world are living up to their reputations as value investors.

Corporate insiders worldwide are buying the most shares for every one they sell since 1999, according to data from 2iQ Research. Managers and directors have snapped up 4.5 times more equity in their own firms than they’ve sold this month, as of Monday.

All in, they’ve purchased 86.6 million euros ($95 million) worth of stock so far in March, the most since 2015. It’s sign that executives now see their companies as alluringly cheap after the 30% plunge in the MSCI World Index from its record.

The bargain-hunting drive reached a record in Italy and Spain, two economies in lockdown as the coronavirus spreads. In the U.S., purchases are at 2016 highs.

Since executives supposedly have superior knowledge about their own businesses, such purchases add to the case that shares have fallen beyond their fair value, the thinking goes.

Corporate Insiders Send Most Bullish Stock Signal Since ‘99

“Insiders are buying massively and in the past they have had quite good timing to pick the market bottom,” said Patrick Hable, a Frankfurt-based managing partner at the data provider. “It would be extremely worrying if they are selling now, especially since it’s in their nature to buy when their stock is down.”

In Europe, insiders have bought 20.6 million euros ($22.7 million) worth of stock so far in March, already the highest since late 2018. Insider buying has been especially pronounced in energy and financials, two of the hardest hit industries amid the market volatility unleashed by the widening viral outbreak. Sales have exceeded purchases in utilities, Hable added.

Corporate Insiders Send Most Bullish Stock Signal Since ‘99

The data dovetails with finding from other sources. In the U.S., insiders’ buy-to-sell ratio had jumped to the highest since 2011 as of Friday, according to the Washington Service, an analytics firm. American corporate insiders bought 1.87 times more shares than they sold last week, compared with a one-year average of 0.15, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The chief executive officer of Standard Life Aberdeen bought nearly 100,000 pounds ($121,000) worth of the U.K. investment giant’s shares on Tuesday, according to a filing. The CEO as well as the chief investment officer of insurer M&G Plc also each spent more than 160,000 pounds on the firm’s stock on Monday.

Information on insider trades is public in most markets, though it can be time-consuming to compile and standardize.

Studies have shown that piggybacking on such buying and selling behavior can pay off handsomely, with some arguing that it helps to remedy market mispricings. Recent research has posited that insiders are more likely to buy when their stock trades at a 52-week low and vice versa.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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