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Aggregate Account Debt/Credit as Stock Market Indicators

September 27, 2021 • Posted in Sentiment Indicators

“Margin Debt as a Stock Market Indicator” investigates whether NYSE margin debt predicts future stock market returns. Since updates to this variable are not available, we instead consider the following three aggregate monthly investment account metrics from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) as alternative margin-related indicators of investor sentiment:

  1. Margin account debt (aggressive use of borrowed funds).
  2. Cash account credit (dry powder with perhaps conservative intent).
  3. Margin account credit (dry powder with perhaps aggressive intent).

FINRA generally updates these metrics during the third week of the month after the measured month. We relate each metric to future SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY) returns as a proxy for U.S. stock market returns. Using end-of-month values of the aggregate account metrics and monthly dividend-adjusted SPY prices during January 1997 (except February 2010 for margin account credit) through August 2021, we find that: (more…)

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