Stocks don’t move in the same direction all the time. However, at times, investors can make money by “riding the hot hand.” Momentum investing is a sophisticated trading strategy that many institutional investors avoid. Traders who attempt to trade on momentum use technical analysis to identify specific buy and sell points that help them achieve short-term results that are better than the broader market.
One way to identify stocks that are good candidates for momentum investing is to analyze media sentiment. In this article, we’ll look at the role of media sentiment in informing your investing strategy.
What is Momentum Investing?
Momentum investing is a strategy that involves “trading with the trend.” The concept behind momentum investing is that trends tend to stay in place for a period of time. And while stocks are riding that trend they tend to outperform the market.
This requires buying stocks that are rising and selling stocks that are declining. This is the opposite of conventional wisdom which states that that investors should buy stocks that are undervalued (and oversold) and sell stocks that are overvalued (and overbought).
Trading on momentum is a short-term strategy that can last as short as a few hours or days, but it will rarely extend beyond a few months. A key tactic to successful momentum investing is to identify trends, preferably before the trend is identified by mainstream investors. One way to do this is to identify media sentiment about a company and its stock.
Volatility: Friend or Foe
For most investors, volatility is something to be avoided regardless of risk tolerance. Momentum investors however require volatility as a way to profit from these emerging trends and patterns.
But volatility is also the reason that momentum investing carries an outsized risk for investors. Media sentiment can change swiftly. A natural disaster or product recall can change the direction of a trend suddenly and sharply. If a trader is caught on the wrong side of this reversing trend, they can face losses that are steeper than the overall market.
Why is Media Sentiment Important?
Companies that have positive media sentiment generally see a higher stock price. Conversely, companies that have negative media sentiment generally move lower. Traders who are looking to profit from a trade are only concerned about capitalizing on the prevailing sentiment. They can take a long or short position depending on that sentiment.
Media sentiment can’t take away all of the volatility that is inherent in momentum investing. However, trading on media sentiment helps take away some of the guesswork
NOTE: Short selling is an investment strategy that can carry significant risk of losses.
Media Sentiment Can Drive Thematic Investing
One way that buy-and-hold investors can take advantage of media sentiment is through thematic investing. Thematic investing is a strategy of buying or selling stocks based on certain trends that are happening in the economy. This strategy is not as rooted in technical indicators and is largely about looking at a company’s fundamentals as well as macroeconomic conditions. And one of those is media sentiment.
For example, certain themes emerged in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Specifically work-from-home, e-commerce, and vaccine development were all themes that investors flocked to buy. As it became clear that an administration that was friendly to renewable energy was taking office, electric vehicle stocks captured the fancy of thematic investors. And as inflation reached 40-year highs, energy stocks became the hottest stocks of interest for investors.
However, long-term investors will want to ensure they buy quality stocks that have the potential to reward them no matter how the broader economy performs. One way that investors can do this is to look for stocks that pay a dividend. These stocks will generally not move as high as pure growth stocks, but they can also mitigate losses when the market moves lower.
How to Identify Media Sentiment
If you made it to this page, you already know the answer. A sentiment screener can help investors identify which companies are popular with investors. News moves quickly and few investors have the ability to monitor their portfolios as actively as they might like.
A screener can allow you to sort stocks by sector, market capitalization and even positive or negative sentiment. It can also allow you to look for stocks that combine positive media sentiment with favorable analyst ratings.
Momentum Waxes and Wanes
However, what super cycle events such as the Covid-19 pandemic also demonstrate is that thematic investing (and momentum investing in general) can be highly cyclical. For example, as the economy was reopening with the availability of vaccines, some work-from-home stocks fell sharply as demand fell.
The pandemic also showed how positive news can also benefit some stocks in a sector while weighing down other sectors. For example, as vaccines became more readily available, the companies who were producing vaccines saw their stock rewarded. This is because investors saw the opportunity for revenue and earnings growth for years to come. An example of this is Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) which has a robust pipeline of potential drugs and therapeutics that can benefit from mRNA technology.
However, other stocks that were propped up on the hope that they might deliver a vaccine sharply sold off. One example of this is Novavax (NASDAQ:NVAX) whose stock fell more than 80% from a 52-week high of $270.58 set in September 2021.