Individual Investors Forget Crash of 08-09; Margin Debt Soars

This article by Jason Zweig actually scared me. Clearly the media (and sell-side analyst cheerleaders) has been getting more bullish as the Euro-Crisis was “solved” in late 2012 and basically every asset class has risen. However, I did not realize until about a week ago that individual investors are also getting bullish. A relative who has friends among the upper echelon in NY told me how everyone at recent social gatherings have been  bragging about their stocks and performance. I have since then heard similar stories from others. Stories like this usually indicate a market top (although value investors will agree its impossible to call market tops or bottoms). Jason Zweig has some more information with some actual data and as always some interesting insights on behavioral finance.

There isn’t any doubt that individual investors have been getting more aggressive. Leading discount brokerages TD Ameritrade Holding, E*Trade Financial,  Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments and Scottrade added $170 billion in retail assets in the first three quarters of last year, according to Ana Avramovic, a trading strategist at Credit Suisse Group -1.14% . Margin debt—borrowing that individual investors use to juice up returns on their brokerage accounts—exceeds $330 billion, up 24% in 12 months.