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Thestreet.com

Insider selling may threaten rally Add to ...

The stock market is rallying, but insiders aren't buying it.

Insider selling activity of late has been a flood, while insider buying is practically non-existent, as Bloomberg data show.

The companies that saw the biggest selling by insiders in the past week through Oct. 1 were Oracle Corp. , Google Inc. , Phillip Morris International Inc. , Nike and CarMax Inc. . Oracle insiders alone sold $135-million (U.S.) worth of stock during the week.

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Just two companies, General Dynamics Corp. and Best Buy Co. Inc. saw insider buying during the same week, and it wasn't much. In fact, General Dynamics insiders sold more than $222,000 worth of stock, while buying totaled just over $127,000.

The blog Zero Hedge tallied up the numbers and found it adds up to $2,341 (U.S.) of insider selling for every dollar of buying.

Keith Wirtz, chief information officer of Fifth Third Asset Management, says he is concerned about the trend, but nonetheless remains bullish on stocks.

Wirtz says the asset manager uses insider selling as a "factor indicator" in deciding how heavily to invest in stocks.

"We think it's informed money so we do like to pay attention to it," he says.

That said, Wirtz believes managers, like retail investors, may be less inclined to take risks with their money. Also, the low share prices, as well as internal restrictions, may have created pent-up demand from managers looking to sell shares, he reasons.

Other factors, such as low price-to-earnings ratios, an accommodative Federal Reserve and what Fifth Third sees as only a one in four likelihood of a recurring recession. Wirtz and his colleagues also see companies as being in a "sweet spot" in the economic cycle, where both profit and margins look likely to expand for some time.

"Right now fundamentals for U.S. companies are very strong, balance sheet conditions are very strong and quality of earnings is very strong," Wirtz says.

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