Markets are starting the day in the black, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.04%) up 0.3% and the S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.09%) up 0.6% as of 9:55 a.m. EDT. Investors must be ignoring Bank of America Merrill Lynch's sell-side consensus indicator, which aggregates the outlook of strategists at sell-side institutions (broker-dealers) and is more bearish on U.S. stocks than it has been since its inception in 1985!
But wait -- it turns out it's actually a contrarian indicator: The last time it hit a major bottom was in early 2009, which proved to be an excellent buying opportunity. However, it's worth noting that, in 2009, the indicator had fallen along with stocks. In this instance, it has fallen dramatically, while stocks have risen 13.1% in the year to Sept. 30.
In stock-specific news, activist investor Bill Ackman was on CNBC this morning, and he didn't mince words regarding consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (PG -0.76%):
It's stumbled over the last several years under the current CEO's leadership. ... Part of the problem here is there is not a culture of efficiency at P&G -- this is a very fat and bloated company. ... You look at what Paul Polman has done at Unilever (UL -0.77%) (UN), making that company much more efficient.
P&G has been a growth company for 175 years. This is one of the great boards in America. ... It's a group of very talented CEOs/ operators. They're not on this board to receive a director's fee; they're on this board to do the right thing and I'm confident they'll do the right thing.
Under normal circumstances, I'd say this is an intriguing situation: Investing in "wounded elephants," as Motley Fool Inside Value's Philip Durrell likes to call them, can be extremely profitable. However, at 18 times the next 12 months' earnings-per-share estimate, the valuation exhibits hardly a scratch, let alone a wound. At a glance, the shares look hard-pressed to produce anything above passable returns from current levels. In the same sector, however, investors may want to look at "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World."