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Commentary: What do insiders know that outsiders do not?
Bad news, stock-market bulls: Corporate insiders are selling their companies’ shares at an abnormally fast pace.
In fact, one measure of that selling activity shows insiders of NYSE- and AMEX-listed companies recently were selling at the fastest rate since data began being collected in the early 1970s, four decades ago.
On the theory that insiders know more about their companies’ prospects than do the rest of us, this is an ominous sign.
Corporate insiders, of course, are a company’s officers, directors and largest shareholders. They are required to file a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission more or less immediately upon buying or selling shares of their companies, and the SEC makes those reports public.
One firm that gathers and analyzes the data is Argus Research, which publishes its findings in the Vickers Weekly Insider Report. One indicator that the firm calculates is a ratio of the number of shares that insiders have sold in the open market to the number that they have purchased.
In the week ending last Friday, according to the latest issue of the Vickers report, this sell-to-buy ratio stood at 6.43 to 1. This is higher than 95% of other weeks’ readings over the last decade.