How the Asset Bubble Could End – Part 2, by Pater Tenebrarum

The second in Pater Tenebrarum’s series on the all-everything bubble. From Tenebrarum at

Part 1

Contradictory Signals

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There is just one more positioning indicator we want to mention: after surging by around $126 billion since March of 2016, NYSE margin debt has reached a new all time high of more than $561 billion. The important point about this is that margin debt normally peaks well before the market does. Based on this indicator, one should not expect major upheaval anytime soon. There are exceptions to the rule though – see the caption below the chart.

A new all-time high in NYSE margin debt: this is in line with the other indicators shown here, and normally margin debt tends to peak before the market does. This is generally true – but not always.  We found two major market peaks – namely the 1937 and 1973 tops – when margin debt peaked after the market had topped out. In 1937 it happened just one month after the top, in 1973 it happened 8 months after the top. Note also that at the 1937 market peak, there was no warning from the NYSE advance-decline line either – it topped almost concurrently with prices – click to enlarge.

Since we discussed bubble blow-offs earlier this year (see: Speculative Blow-Offs in Stock Markets, Part 1 and Part 2), we have pointed out several times that an unusual number of diverging signals could be observed this year. And many signals we would normally expect to have appeared on the horizon by now are simply not in sight yet.

Consider for instance this chart from Moody’s, which we showed in one of our articles on credit spreads. It depicts debt as a percentage of internal company funds compared to actual and expected default rates. It is logical that these tend to be highly correlated, and yet, they are suddenly diverging rather noticeably.

Similarly, current market valuations and sentiment/positioning data are at such rare extremes that we would normally expect to see a number of “confirming signals” elsewhere by now – but that is not the case.


To continue reading: How the Asset Bubble Could End – Part 2


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