And Now Come The Margin Calls: NYSE Margin Debt At 16 Month High
A stock sell off is usually a healthy, cathartic thing: one sells, pockets the proceeds, books a loss, and comes back to fight another day. The big problem, however, is when speculators and traders are already massively overleveraged, and not only don't have a positive Net Worth (defined as Free Credit Cash Account and Credit Balances in Margin Accounts less Margin Debt) but their Margin Debt is so high it commences a toxic loop of selling merely to fund margin calls which usually start popping up in the last hour of trading (and when trading desks put their phones straight to VM), leading to more forced selling, more margin calls, and so on. And therein lies the rub: according to the most recent NYSE margin debt data, the market complacency recently hit such high levels, that speculators virtually went all in, but solely in their margin accounts without holding any cash buffer to pay for potential margin calls. As can be seen on the table below, Margin Debt as of 9/30 hit $315 billion: a jump of $30 billion from the prior month, and the highest since March 2011, just before the market tanked. And confirming that there is simply no cash on hand to pay for margin calls when they start pouring in after today's massive sell off, is the total Net Worth, which in September was the lowest since April. Because with record complacency, and the Fed guaranteeing no further shocks are possible, who needs to hold cash? Today, we will find out: just as soon as the margin calls start coming around around 3PM Eastern...
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