Retail Investors Are Long Confidence And Short Experience

There are currently many signs of exuberance in the market. Most notably, the surge in speculative “call option” buying. While there are many complexities and risks, such is not a concern to young investors with little or no experience in trading options.

Long confidence short experience, Retail Investors Are Long Confidence And Short Experience

Nor is it an issue to leverage up accounts using “margin loans.”

Long confidence short experience, Retail Investors Are Long Confidence And Short Experience

I suspect that most of the individuals surveyed, who are trading on margin, do not understand what happens when prices decline. As noted previously:

“Margin debt is not a technical indicator for trading markets. What margin debt represents is the amount of speculation that is occurring in the market. In other words, margin debt is the ‘gasoline,’ which drives markets higher as the leverage provides for the additional purchasing power of assets. However, ‘leverage’ also works in reverse as it supplies the accelerant for more significant declines as lenders ‘force’ the sale of assets to cover credit lines without regard to the borrower’s position.”

The last sentence is the most important. The issue with margin debt is the unwinding of leverage is NOT at the investor’s discretion. It is at the discretion of the broker-dealers that extended the leverage. (In other words, if you don’t sell to cover, the broker-dealer will do it for you.)

Just to put this into perspective, the rate of increase in margin debt is at historical extremes. Such has previously not worked out well for investors.

Long confidence short experience, Retail Investors Are Long Confidence And Short Experience

 

Blind Leading The Blind

As shown, one of the most troubling aspects of where individuals are getting their investing guidance. The youngest and least experienced investors use social media as the “most important” source of information. Considering most social media users are the younger generation, this is the very definition of the “blind leading the blind.”

Long confidence short experience, Retail Investors Are Long Confidence And Short Experience

Jason Zweig summed up the problem with this very well:

“As surely as the sun rises in the east, promoters will be touting these returns. A small-stock fund manager who’s up 40% over the past year can hype that gain in ads and on social media; 40% is a big, beautiful number! Only by reading the fine print would you be reminded that a 40% return underperformed the average by more than 10 percentage points.

You knew I would tell you this but I’m saying it anyway. These returns won’t last indefinitely. Enjoy them while they last, but you’d be crazy to count on such giant gains becoming common.

At times like these, grounding yourself in realistic expectations is more important than ever. Working in the garden also reminds me that market cycles, like nature’s seasons, can be extended — but not rescinded.”

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