Monday, October 7, 2013

The Reason For The Selloff: Microcap Traders Punk'd With 100% Interactive Brokers Margin Hike

The massive outperformance of the smallest and most trashy companies over the past year, month, week, day etc... stalled this afternoon. No news; no macro data; no change in the situation in DC. So what was it? We suspect the answer lies in the all-time record levels of margin that we recently discussed holding up the US equity market. [6] Interactive Brokers, it would appear, have seen the light and over the next week or so will be increasing maintenance margin to 100% - effectively squeezing the leveraged momentum chasing muppets out of the market (or at the very least halving their risk-taking abilities [7]).


As we warned previously,
Margin Debt still contrarian bearish
Using closing basis monthly data, peaks in NYSE margin debt preceded peaks in the S&P 500 in 2007 and 2000. The March 2000 peak in NYSE margin debt of $278.5m preceded the August 2000 monthly closing price peak in the S&P 500 at 1517.68. The July 2007 margin debt peak of $381.4m preceded the October 2007 monthly closing price peak of 1549.38 for the S&P 500. Margin debt reached a record high of $384.4m in April and the S&P 500 continued to rally into July, August, and September. This is a similar set up to 2007 and 2000.
Bonus Chart - Margin debt: the long-term overlay
Going back to January 1959, margin debt and the S&P 500 have moved together for the most part. But leverage is a double edge sword and can exacerbate sell-offs, leading to deeper than expected market pullbacks.
Still think the "market" is driven by earnings or fundamentals? or just leverage and marginal credit expansion (shadow banking repo... etc.)?