22/11/18

US Stock-Market Margin Debt Plunges Most Since Lehman Moment



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US Stock-Market Margin Debt Plunges Most Since Lehman Moment
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Authored by Wolf Richter via WolfStreet.com,

It gets serious. Margin calls?

No one knows what the total leverage in the stock market is. But we know it's huge and has surged in past years, based on the limited data we have, and from reports by various brokers about their "securities-based loans" (SBLs), and from individual fiascos when, for example, a $1.6 billion SBL to just one guy blows up. There are many ways to use leverage to fund stock holdings, including credit card loans, HELOCs, loans at the institutional level, loans by companies to its executives to buy the company's shares, or the super-hot category of SBLs, where brokers lend to their clients. None of them are reported on an overall basis.

The only form of stock market leverage that is reported monthly is "margin debt" – the amount individual and institutional investors borrow from their brokers against their portfolios. Margin debt is subject to well-rehearsed margin calls. And apparently, they have kicked off.

In the ugliest stock-market October anyone can remember, margin debt plunged by $40.5 billion, FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) reported this morning – the biggest plunge since November 2008, weeks after Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy:

During the stock market boom since the Financial Crisis, this measure of margin debt has ....

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