When Deleveraging Isn’t a Good Thing

Several banking indicators have exhibited a mild trend of deleveraging that has now persisted over two months. What we don’t know yet is whether it is just a correction of overborrowing during the initial phase of the pandemic and the Fed’s response.

Or is it the beginning of a persistent trend of deleveraging? That’s important because if it is the latter, it would have the power to change the direction of stocks

That could be a good thing over the long term. But it could also lead to another accident in the shorter term, over the next few months.

Unfortunately, so many aspects of this are uncharted waters for us. We can’t look at history and say, oh, this is just like that, or even something like that. We must take our best shot based on the logic of the current circumstances. Another problem is that, while economists assume that humans are rational actors, we know that that’s not often the case. We have to figure out how humans are most likely to behave, rational, irrational, or otherwise.

Ultimately that boils down to divining the trends in the data as it exists. Let’s just look closely at what we know and ask a few questions. Is the current trend persisting? Are there conditions on the horizon that might lead to change? Is change already underway? What are the signs? How will the Fed respond? And more importantly, how long will it take the Fed to respond.

Fortunately, the last two questions don’t need an answer. Because the Fed doesn’t know what it will do until it does it, neither does the market. And it’s likely to take the market longer to figure it out than it takes us, if we’re paying attention. Which we are.

Here’s what we know and what to do about it.

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Lee Adler

I’ve been publishing The Wall Street Examiner and its predecessor since October 2000. I also publish LiquidityTrader.com, and was lead analyst for Sure Money Investor, of blessed memory. I developed David Stockman's Contra Corner for Mr. Stockman. I’ve had a wide variety of finance related jobs since 1972, including a stint on Wall Street in both sales, analytical, and trading capacities. Prior to starting the Wall Street Examiner I was a commercial real estate appraiser in Florida for 15 years. I was considered an expert in the analysis of failed properties that ended up in the hands of bank REO divisions, the FDIC, and the RTC. Remember those guys? I also worked in the residential mortgage and real estate businesses in parts of the 1970s and 80s. I have been charting stocks and markets and doing analytical work since I was a teenager. I'm not some Ivory Tower academic, Wall Street guy. My perspective comes from having my boots on the ground and in the trenches, as a real estate broker, mortgage broker, trader, account rep, and analyst. I've watched most of the games these Wall Street wiseguys play from right up close. I know the drill from my 55 years of paying attention. And I'm happy to share that experience with you, right here. 

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