ChartBrief 69 – Margin Debt Acceleration

ChartBrief 69 – Margin Debt Acceleration

For some reason there seems to be a lot of people obsessed with and almost losing sleep about the level of US margin debt.  In fairness it made a new all time high in absolute nominal terms in February.

Is this something to worry about? And more to the point – is it the correct way to look at margin debt if you are actually trying to get an actionable market timing signal?

I’ll save you time: No, and No.

SALT New York 2021: Wences Casares And Peter Briger On The Macro Case For Bitcoin

BitcoinAt this year's SALT New York conference, Wences Casares, the chairman of XAPO, and Peter Briger, the principal and co-chief executive officer of Fortress Investment Group discussed the macro case for Bitcoin. Q2 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more XAPO describes itself as the first digital bank of its kind, which offers the "convenience" Read More

The chart below, from the latest Weekly Macro Themes report, shows what I consider to be the ‘correct’ way to look at margin debt if you’re actually interested in a meaningful market signal. This signal/indicator is pitted against the S&P 500 Index.

Margin Debt Acceleration

The chart shows what I call margin debt acceleration – stay with me on this…

The reason I say acceleration is because that’s what really counts. You look at the chart and 2 things should immediately stick out: The spikes or rapid acceleration seen at the peak in 2000 and 2007.  So that’s signal no.1: A rapid acceleration of margin debt (which reflects euphoria and frantic rush to cash in on market returns).

At present there is no such signal of excessive acceleration.

The second type of signal comes from the opposite – deceleration. Massive and swift decelerations flagged the previous 2 major bear markets and flashed orange warning lights 2 times in the post-crisis period.  These turned out to be ‘false alarms’ but did flag a period of consolidation and volatility.

On signal no.2 there is no sign of excessive deceleration.

So as I hinted earlier on, this is what I think is the best way to look at margin debt if you want to actually get a useful market timing signal. And for the 2 major types of signal, there is nothing to worry about on this indicator alone at this point.  Of course it’s no reason to get complacent, and you can be sure I will be watching this one closely and keeping my clients up to date on any changes!

This article appeared here first as a submission:

Article by Callum Thomas, Top Down Charts

Updated on

Previous article Netflix Earnings Preview: Mixed Analyst Signals On Domestic Subscribers
Next article Google Pixel 2 To Sport Curved OLED Display, Snapdragon 835
Topdown Charts: "chart driven macro insights" Based in Queenstown, New Zealand, Topdown Charts brings you independent research and analysis on global macro themes and trends. Topdown Charts covers multiple economies, markets, and asset classes with a distinct chart-driven focus. We are not bound by technical or fundamental dogma, and instead look to leverage any relevant factor to capture the theme. As such, here you will find some posts that are purely technical strategy, some that just cover economics and data, and some posts that use multiple inputs to tell the story and identify the opportunities. Callum Thomas Head of Research Callum is the founder of Topdown Charts. He previously worked in investment strategy and asset allocation at AMP Capital in the Multi-Asset division. Callum has a passion for global macro investing and has developed strong research and analytical expertise across economies and asset classes. Callum's approach is to utilise a blend of factors to inform the macro view.

No posts to display