Fastenal (Nasdaq: FAST) is a nearly $10 billion industrial and construction supply business with a 44-year history. Last year, it was No. 10 most-owned stock by investment clubs, as measured by the folks at Better Investing. If retail investors were high on the stock, it got me to thinking: What's the consensus sentiment view on Fastenal?

Turns out, the view is mixed. Let's have a look at a few of the key sentiment drivers.

1. Analyst opinion
Analysts are mixed on Fastenal. Data from Yahoo! Finance captures their collective feeling:

Strong Buy








Strong Sell


Four analysts have a "strong buy" rating for the stock, but the most widely held opinion (six analysts) is the neutral "hold," with only two saying "sell." For purposes of this exercise, we'll classify analyst sentiment as "neutral-leaning-bullish."

2. Insider buying
Next, we'll look at insider buying and selling. Over the past year, Fastenal insiders have sold $51.3 million worth of their company stock. During the same time period, insiders bought $209,670 of Fastenal stock. (Data from Form4Oracle.)

While $51.1 million of net insider selling isn't all that meaningful relative to Fastenal's $9.4 billion market cap, and while insiders sell stock for a whole host of reasons -- to pay for a house or tuition, to diversify assets, and so forth -- it's still nice to see insider buying/selling a bit more balanced. We'll classify this sentiment as bearish.

3. Guru buying
Next, we'll look at "guru" ownership of the stock, according to GuruFocus.

There aren't a whole lot of gurus interested in Fastenal, but the few gurus who've made trades have been buying, not selling. In the quarter ended Dec. 31, the only guru activity was George Soros scooping up a fairly modest 3,600 shares. Three gurus are current owners of Fastenal: Soros, Ron Baron, and Ruane Cunniff.

Without a ton of guru affection, we'll classify "guru buying" sentiment as bullish-to-neutral.

4. Retail investor community sentiment
For retail investor community sentiment, I turn to Motley Fool CAPS, our proprietary stock rating system. CAPS generates ratings on a one- to five-star scale, with five stars as the highest ranking, indicating that the Fool community believes in a stock's future. Fastenal has a neutral three-star rating.

5. Short-sellers
Next, we'll look at whether short-sellers are circling the stock. There are 13.1 million Fastenal shares sold short, according to Capital IQ. As a percentage of shares outstanding, that's a short interest of 8.9%. While it's less than, say, the 13.3% short interest of struggling bookseller Barnes & Noble, it's still higher than I'd like to see. For determining sentiment, we'll classify the high short interest as bearish.

6. Does Buffett own it?
This is the "cherry on top" test, and in Fastenal's case, it's a no: Berkshire Hathaway does not own shares.

Adding it up
Fastenal's overall sentiment is decidedly mixed. The CAPS community is neutral on the stock, and both analysts and gurus are neutral-to-bullish. On the negative side, insiders have been net sellers, and short sellers are circling the stock at a rate higher than I'd like to see. Berkshire doesn't own shares of Fastenal, either.

Of course, you can't base an investment philosophy on who likes or dislikes the stock you own, and even a consensus bullish opinion can sometimes be a scary thing. Quoting Buffett: "A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." There's neither fear nor greed circling Fastenal right now, though.

The purpose of this series of articles isn't to make a definitive buy-or-sell call on Fastenal. Rather, by looking at a stock's sentiment, the goal is to help you place your own opinion of it in a broader context.

One final thing: If you want to keep tabs on Fastenal's movements, and for more analysis on the company, make sure you add it to your watchlist. managing editor Brian Richards does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and has a disclosure policy.