Old hands on Wall Street … have been waiting for retail — the individual investor — to go all-in stocks. After 13 long years, this moment has finally arrived: retail is all in.
If you doubt this, just look at record highs in investor sentiment, margin debt and the Buffett Indicator.
Current valuations are so extreme that the previous extreme in the 2000 dot-com bubble now looks modest in comparison.
I have my own sure-fire indicators for when retail is all-in. One is my Mom’s financial advisor recommends shifting her modest nest-egg out of safe bonds into the go-go stocks that are topping out. Back in late 1999, it was Cisco Systems and the other dot-com leaders, today it’s the FANGMAN stocks. Sure enough, my Mom just informed me her advisor recommended moving money from bonds into a FANG-dominated stock fund. Bingo, we have a winner.
Second indicator: average people who have never traded stocks are all-in and supremely confident they can’t lose. When 20-year college students are trading based on a “genius” 22-year old friend’s advice, retail is all-in. When a worker cleaning a wooden deck pauses to put $100,000 in a company he knows nothing about (yes, true story), retail is all-in.
Much is made of meme stocks, but the real driver of retail going all-in is the complete collapse of risk / moral hazard: the Fed will never let the market go down is not a meme, it is an article of secular faith, supported by 13 long years of ceaseless Fed intervention / stimulus, all in service of elevating the stock market. …
This time it’s different:
Every generation that experiences a speculative mania feels it’s unique. This is the pattern that repeats. The confluence of forces driving the mania to unprecedented heights is so obviously unique and uniquely powerful that it is literally crazy not to grab a board and ride the wave to riches.
What the newly minted millionaires don’t understand is they’re the marks and bagholders. Wall Street has been patiently waiting for retail to go all-in so the pros can sell all the over-valued stocks to the euphoric, trusting retail traders, who will continue to buy the dip and rotate into the next hot meme-stock until their fortunes have dwindled to spare change. …
Every share of stock ends up in somebody’s account, and the ideal bagholder is one who adds more on every downturn (buy the dip) and who refuses to sell (diamond hands), holding on for the inevitable Fed-fueled rally to new highs. …
That’s how accounts are destroyed, and the wreckage isn’t just financial. The scars of being a bagholder can last a long time. But Wall Street is patient, and a new crop of bagholders eventually catches Fed Fever, and the transfer of over-valued equities to a new generation of bagholders will play out according to the same script.
I’m not sure anyone plans it that way, but it does happen — repeatedly.
The current flood of cheap money is driving all prices up, but a market can still crash relative to everything else even while stock prices rise. For instance, two decades ago the Zimbabwean stock market outperformed every other market in the world in percentage gains, even as its value sank to near zero.
That said, the usual signs that a crash is imminent are currently absent.