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Margin Debt over 2.25% of GDP Signals Stock Market Crash

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Another signal that the stock market is over inflated and heading for a major correction is margin debt greater than 2.25% of GDP. Levels in April already show that this level has been hit. Previous stock market crashes have in common high margin debt greater than 2.25%. Will we be lucky this time around, unlikely.

What do 1929, 2000 and 2007 all have in common?  Those were all years in which we saw a dramatic spike in margin debt.  In all three instances, investors became highly leveraged in order to “take advantage” of a soaring stock market.  But of course we all know what happened each time.  The spike in margin debt was rapidly followed by a horrifying stock market crash.  Well guess what?  It is happening again.  In April (the last month we have a number for), margin debt rose to an all-time high of more than 384 billion dollars.  The previous high was 381 billion dollars which occurred back in July 2007.  Margin debt is about 29 percent higher than it was a year ago, and the S&P 500 has risen by more than 20 percent since last fall.  The stock market just continues to rise even though the underlying economic fundamentals continue to get worse.  So should we be alarmed?  Is the stock market bubble going to burst at some point?  Well, if history is any indication we are in big trouble.  In the past, whenever margin debt has gone over 2.25% of GDP the stock market has crashed.  That certainly does not mean that the market is going to crash this week, but it is a major red flag. The funny thing is that the fact that investors are so highly leveraged is being seen as a positive thing by many in the financial world.  Some believe that a high level of margin debt is a sign that “investor confidence” is high and that the rally will continue. 

“The rising level of debt is seen as a measure of investor confidence, as investors are more willing to take out debt against investments when shares are rising and they have more value in their portfolios to borrow against. The latest rise has been fueled by low interest rates and a 15% year-to-date stock-market rally.”

Others, however, consider the spike in margin debt to be a very ominous sign.  Margin debt has now risen to about 2.4 percent of GDP, and as the New York Times recently pointed out, whenever we have gotten this high before a market crash has always followed…

“The first time in recent decades that total margin debt exceeded 2.25 percent of G.D.P. came at the end of 1999, amid the technology stock bubble. Margin debt fell after that bubble burst, but began to rise again during the housing boom — when anecdotal evidence said some investors were using their investments to secure loans that went for down payments on homes. That boom in margin loans also ended badly.”

Posted below is a chart of the performance of the S&P 500 over the last several decades.  After looking at this chart, compare it to the margin debt charts that the New York Times recently published that you can find right here.  There is a very strong correlation between these charts.  You can find some more charts that directly compare the level of margin debt and the performance of the S&P 500 right here.  Every time margin debt has soared to a dramatic new high in the past, a stock market crash and a recession have always followed.  Will we escape a similar fate this time?

S&P 500

What makes all of this even more alarming is the fact that a number of things that we have not seen happen in the U.S. economy since 2009 are starting to happen again.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “12 Clear Signals That The U.S. Economy Is About To Really Slow Down“.

At some point the stock market will catch up with the economy.  When that happens, it will probably happen very rapidly and a lot of people will lose a lot of money.

And there are certainly a lot of prominent voices out there that are warning about what is coming.  For example, the following is what renowned investor Alan M. Newman had to say about the current state of the market earlier this year

If anything has changed yet in 2013, we certainly do not see it. Despite the early post-fiscal cliff rally, this is the same beast we rode to the 2007 highs for the Dow Industrials. The U.S. stock market is over leveraged, overpriced and has been commandeered by mechanical forces to such an extent that all holding periods are now affected by more risk than at any time in history.”

Source: theeconomiccollapseblog.com

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Stock Market Exit Up Ahead

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Is it time to exit the stock market now? Soros has dumped 80% of his stock holdings. Well smart money seems to think so. The relationship between earnings and the stock prices suggest that the DOW should be over 200 points lower so maybe it time for and adjustment.

If wonderful times are ahead for U.S. financial markets, then why is so much of the smart money heading for the exits?  Does it make sense for insiders to be getting out of stocks and real estate if prices are just going to continue to go up?  The Dow is up about 17 percent so far this year, and it just keeps setting new record high after new record high.  U.S. home prices have risen about 11 percent from a year ago, and some analysts are projecting that we are on the verge of a brand new housing boom.  Why would the smart money want to leave the party when it is just getting started?  Well, of course the truth is that the “smart money” is regarded as being smart because they usually make better decisions than other people do.  And right now the smart money is screaming that it is time to get out of the markets.  For example, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  The smart money is busy selling even as the dumb money is busy buying.  So precisely what does the smart money expect to happen?  Are they anticipating a market “correction” or something bigger than that?

Those are very good questions.  Unfortunately, the smart money rarely divulges their secrets, so we can only watch what they do.  And right now a lot of insiders are making some very interesting moves.

For example, George Soros has been dumping almost all of his financial stocks.  The following is from a recent article by Becket Adams

Everyone’s favorite billionaire investor is back in the spotlight, and this time he has a few people wondering what he’s up to.

George Soros has dumped his position with several major banks including JPMorgan Chase, Capitol One, SunTrust, and Morgan Stanley. He has reduced his exposure to Citigroup and decreased his stake in AIG by two-thirds.

In fact, Soros’ financial stock holdings are down by roughly 80 percent, a massive drop from his position just three months ago, according to SNL Financial.

So exactly what is going on?

Why is Soros doing this?

Well, there is certainly a lot to criticize when it comes to Soros, but you can’t really blame him if he is just taking his profits and running.  Financial stocks have been on a tremendous run and that run is going to end at some point.  Smart investors lock in their profits while they still can.

And without a doubt, stocks have become completely divorced from economic reality in recent months.  For example, there is usually a very close relationship between corporate earnings and stock prices.  But as CNBC recently reported, that relationship has totally broken down lately…

That trend disrupted a formerly symbiotic relationship between earnings and stock prices and is indicating that the bluechip average is in for a substantial pullback, according to Tom Kee, who runs the StockTradersDaily investor web site.

“They’ve been moving in tandem since 2009, until recently. Earnings per share for the Dow Jones industrial average have flatlined and the price has taken off,” Kee said. “There is something happening here that defines a bubble.”

At some point there will be a correction.  If the relationship between earnings and stock prices was where it should be, the Dow would be  around 13,500 right now.  That would be a fall of nearly 2,000 points from where it is at the moment.

And we appear to be entering a time when revenues at many corporate giants are actually declining.  As I noted in a previous article, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.

Of course a stock market “correction” can turn into a crash very easily.  Financial markets in Japan are already crashing, and many fear that the escalating problems in the third largest economy on the planet will soon spill over into Europe and North America.

And things in Europe just continue to get steadily worse.  In fact, the New York Times is reporting that the European Central Bank is warning that the risk of a “renewed banking crisis” in Europe is rising…

The European Central Bank warned on Wednesday that the euro zone’s slumping economy and a surge in problem loans were raising the risk of a renewed banking crisis, even as overall stress in the region’s financial markets had receded.In a sober assessment of the state of the zone’s financial system, the E.C.B. said that a prolonged recession had made it harder for many borrowers to repay their loans, burdening banks that had still not finished repairing the damage caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

And there are many financial analysts out there that are warning that their cyclical indicators have peaked and that we are on the verge of a fresh global downturn

“We see building evidence of a cyclical downturn,” said Fredrik Nerbrand, HSBC’s global asset guru. “We find it highly troubling that the eurozone is still marred in a recession at the same time as our cyclical indicators appear to have peaked.”

In the United States, a lot of the smart money has also decided that it is time to bail out of the housing market before this latest housing bubble bursts.  The following is one example of this phenomenon that was discussed in a recent Businessweek article

Hedge fund manager Bruce Rose was among the first investors to coax institutional money into the mom and pop business of single-family home rentals, raising $450 million last year from Oaktree Capital Group LLC.Now, with house prices climbing at the fastest pace in seven years and investors swamping the rental market, Rose says it no longer makes sense to be a buyer.

“We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest,” Rose, 55, chief executive officer of Carrington Holding Co. LLC, said in an interview at his Aliso Viejo, California office. “There’s a lot of — bluntly — stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.”

So what does all of this mean?

Is there a reason why the smart money is suddenly getting out of stocks and real estate?

It could just be that the insiders are simply responding to market dynamics and that many of them are just seeking to lock in their profits.

Or it could be something much more than that.

What do you think?

Why are so many insiders heading for the exits right now?

Stock Markets – You Decide

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Nice chart from ZeroHedge. Speaks for itself, enough said.

 

 

 

Are the Stock Markets About to Crash? Great Depression 2.0

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In a very interesting article from BusinessInsider, Joe Weisenthal writes about Wall St analysts coming to similar conclusions that US and Europe are at the point of no return.

First up was Bob Janjuah

It started off with Nomura’s Bob Janjuah. He said that any talk of the ECB saving Europe was a mere pipedream, and that if the ECB did go whole-hog buying up peripheral debt to suppress yields, then that would prompt a German departure from the the Eurozone.

Next analyst is Jim Reid

But then there was Deutsche Bank’s Jim Reid, who is always sober, but not usually wildly negative. He offered up one of the most bearish lines in history in regards to German opposition to ECB debt monetization:

If you don’t think Merkel’s tone will change then our investment advice is to dig a hole in the ground and hide.

then

But it got even wilder with the latest from SocGen’s Dylan Grice. Again, he’s always pretty negative, but he cranked it up a notch, comparing Germany’s policy today against the policies that enabled the rise of Hitler. Specifically, he said that post-Weimar, Germany became too aggressive about fighting inflation, thus prompting deflation, thus prompting more unemployment, thus enabling the rise of the Nazis.

finally

we just received the latest note from Nomura rates guru George Goncalves, which is titled: US and Europe: At the Point of No Return?He writes:

…we were wrong in assuming one could be optimistic around the EU policy process and have learned our lesson not to accept apathy as a sign that all is factored in as its clear downside risks remain. In fact, we could be approaching the point of no return for the fate of the euro, the European financial system and more broadly the concept of a singular economic zone for Europe; this obviously would change the path for the US and the global economy in a heartbeat too. We still believe there is time to prevent worst-case scenarios, but these sort of watershed moments reveal one thing, that market practitioners are ill-equipped to navigate the political process, especially one that is driven by 17 different governments.

If you like that article, here is another from BusinessInsider titled
All a bit gloomy but better the truth than normalcy bias (i.e head up your arse)

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