There have been three mega-crashes in my investing lifetime, and three concurrent peaks in margin debt. In April, margin debt broke the record set in 2007 and has continued to rise. Over the last three months, it has soared 10.9%. Are we there yet?
Financial engineering had a glorious year. Now finally, after five years, the crazy fun is back, and the good thing is: this time, it’s different. This time, the smart money is selling!
Discount retailer Loehmann’s did what other retailers – and a large number of other junk-rated companies – will do once the Fed allows a sense of reality into the markets: it filed for bankruptcy. Investors had refused to fund further losses.
Municipal bond investors, a conservative bunch eager to avoid rollercoasters and cliffhangers, are getting frazzled. Bankruptcies and the Fed’s taper cacophony are a toxic mix. So they’re bailing out of muni bond funds at record rate. Losses are mounting. And so are the fears.
“It’s like you’re at a party and the keg is beginning to float. When do you leave the party? Where do you go?”
A “positive spiral effect?” Lenders are closing their eyes, sales are soaring, risks are piling up, auto loan balances jumped 15% in 12 months to an all-time high, and repossessions in the subprime segment more than doubled.
One of the few rebellious Fed heads, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, fired a salvo when testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. He hit Wall Street risks covered by implicit government guarantees in the size of America’s GDP.
Stock market bubbles – they allow investors to make the mostest the fastest – don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in a context. But this time, the context is different. Very different.
Individual investors have a unique opportunity now to buy sewer bonds – yup, that’s where they belong – issued by a bankrupt county to pay off holders of defaulted sewer bonds who’ll get a fashionable haircut as part of the deal – a deal made in bond-bubble heaven.
A new era has dawned: there is now a consensus that this is a stock market bubble. We’re back where we were during the last bubble, or the one before it. How do I know it’s not just some intrepid souls on the bleeding edge who are claiming this, but a consensus?