These charts help us understand that a top is not just price, but a reversal in extremes of margin debt, valuation and sentiment.
In blow-off tops, extremes of valuation, complacency and margin debt can always shoot beyond previous extremes to new extremes. This is why guessing when the blow-off top implodes is so hazardous: extreme can always get more extreme.
Nonetheless, extremes eventually reverse, and generally in rough symmetry with their explosive rise. Exhibit 1 is margin debt: NYSE Margin Debt Hits a New Record High (Doug Short)
Note the explosive rise in margin debt in the past few months:
Here’s the global financial crisis in a nutshell: access to easy credit can solve a temporary liquidity problem, but it can’t increase the value of collateral or generate income.
The Chinese culture has a wonderful vocabulary of colorful analogies and metaphors, and today’s title refers to the typhoon of liquidity (freely available credit) that has flooded the global economy for the past five years.
The source of the phrase is Liu Chuanzhi, the Chairman of Lenovo and the iconic figure of Chinese manufacturing. When asked a few years ago why 60% of Lenovo Group’s profit came from asset investment and only 40% came from manufacturing. He said “when the typhoons come, even a pig can fly in the sky. Everybody is profiteering from this. Why can’t we?”
The typhoon in this case is China’s credit/liquidity-driven real estate speculative frenzy, in which the only losers are those who don’t borrow to the hilt in the shadow banking system and buy, buy, buy empty flats in vacant buildings.
The critical distinction to make about typhoons of credit-driven speculation (in China, Japan, the U.S., Europe, etc.) is between liquidity and valuation.