How is deleveraging causing the current crash?

Since fundamental factors impacting the economy do not change overnight, more often than not, the major crashes (excess of 10% in one day) occur due to technical factors.

One such technical factor that is causing the current crash is deleveraging. A lot of the current stress in the stock markets has been attributed to deleveraging.

A lot of financial investors use borrowed money to invest in stock markets and other asset classes. When the going is good, the investors make a lot of money and the cost of borrowed money is always less than the profits that they make due to rising prices.

However when stocks and other assets start to decline, then the investors either need to pump in more money to keep their portfolios stable or wind up their positions.

Such winding up of positions, where the investors sell of their stocks and repay their debt is called deleveraging. They are getting rid of their debt or leverage and to do that, they are selling stocks and other assets.

By selling stocks in such large quantities, they are depressing the stock prices, due to which other investors are forced to deleverage and a vicious cycle is set into motion.

About a few months back, another phrase had become quite popular – Yen Carry Trade. This was a situation where Japanese investors could borrow cheap money in Japan and invest it around the world.

The current strengthening of Yen shows that the Yen positions are getting wound up and Yen is finding its way back home and strengthening its currency. The Yen stands at about 90 to a dollar, which is the highest it saw since 1995.

The good news in all of this is that since deleveraging is more of a technical factor and not fundamental one, the markets are likely to recover sooner than in the case of a deep or prolonged recession.

Catching falling knives

When others are greedy, be scared and when others are scared, be greedy

The most important lesson that I learned about the stock market was that when others are greedy, you should be scared and when others are scared, you should be greedy.

Although the current crisis is a big one, it is not really an unprecedented one and is certainly not one that can’t be solved.

The biggest emerging threat was that the credit system was getting choked and led to the drying up of funds for businesses of all sizes. Such a scenario has been avoided now, with the central banks all across the world taking concerted action and pumping funds in the banks and financial system.

The market always rebounds

I strongly believe that the market will rebound, like it always does and these times are great buying opportunities. As anyone who has been greedy when others were fearful, will tell you, the biggest challenge is determining, how scared others will get.

Dow Jones since 1970

As you can see from the graph, the market has went up and down several times during the last four decades, however in the long run, it continues to move upwards.

Buying in small lots

I bought some stock last week that is already 20% down and I am planning to buy some more this week that may still go down 20% in a week or two.

This is the problem with catching falling knives. You never know how badly they will fall and you may end up cutting yourself while trying to catch them. That is a problem that can’t quite be solved by timing the market. No one really knows where the bottom of the market is and if you wait too long, you will always find yourself sitting on the sidelines.

The best bet is to spread out your investible surplus and then keep buying lots of your favorite stocks. The one caution that I do maintain is to look at the cash balance of the company and compare it with the last few years. This is really easy to do, all you have to do is to go to Google Finance or Yahoo Finance and pull up the financial numbers of the company for the last few years. You can easily find out whether the company is cash rich or not.

This is the additional check that I perform to make sure that my companies are not only fundamentally strong in the long run, but cash rich in the short term as well.

So sit back, hold your nerve and enjoy the ride.