Schaeffer's Senior Market Strategist on Avoiding "Shiny Objects"

According to Sapp, retail trader leverage is a cause for concern

Managing Editor
Feb 19, 2021 at 11:50 AM
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The recent GameStop (GME)-fueled mania should serve as an all-important reminder to investors about balancing hype with reality. Perusing Reddit and StockTwits can be fun, but it must be framed within investing education principles. Against this backdrop, Benzinga sat down with Bryan Sapp, senior market strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research to talk about some of the implications of social media’s influence on the new generation of traders and the importance of education in order to make informed investment decisions.

Below is an excerpt of the article, which can also be found here.

Don’t Confuse Brains With A Bull Market 

Margin debt, which refers to the amount of money an investor borrows from their broker to invest in financial instruments, has climbed to new all-time highs in recent months. 

Given the rising rates of margin debt, Sapp noted that his biggest fear for retail traders is the amount of leverage they are using with margins and options. He went on to say that leverage is great when traders are correct on their particular market stance or stock, but they should remember that this leverage is a two-way street.

“Investing is not about how much money you make when things are going well, but how much capital you preserve when things are going badly,” said Sapp. “Risk appetite is usually highest near significant market tops, and this data should warrant caution moving forward.”

At the end of January, margin debt reached nearly $800 billion. And while margin debt has been increasing for some time now, the recent rate of its rise has been the most dramatic recorded in history. The only two periods that rival this recent rise were in the late ’90s and during 2007-2008, both of which were right ahead of huge market selloffs.

While many retail investors have experienced significant gains over the past year and have become emboldened by their performance, Sapp argued that traders should “not confuse brains with a bull market” — an old wall street adage that tells traders to not confuse skill with a rising market.

The Need For Education

Looking at the rising margin debt and increase in investor confidence, Sapp believes that it is imperative that new traders continue to learn more about the instruments they’re trading and not rely solely on the actions of an internet mob.
“Longevity in all market environments is what makes a good trader,” he said.
Sapp highlighted some of the tools offered by Schaeffer's that can offer new traders better insight into the inner workings of the market, such as Schaeffer’s Volatility Index and Volatility Scorecard, which help illustrate when it is best to undertake equity risk or instead pay premium for an options contract. 
And for new traders who are new to options, the company also offers self-study courses that explain how derivatives work and when they are best implemented.
While online trends come and go, it is likely that the current social media-fueled craze and the deluge of new traders it has brought to the market will continue to impact the physics on Wall Street for months if not years to come. 
As such, Sapp believes new traders may want to look toward additional education resources to avoid significant losses in the heat of a trading fad.
“The best advice I could give new traders is don’t chase stocks that are the ‘shiny new objects’ in this environment. These are generally companies that have had no material changes in their business prospects, but suddenly everyone wants in. Novice traders are generally late to buy these hot names out of FOMO, and once these things reverse, the drops can be dramatic,” Sapp said. “Focus on finding setups that everyone else isn’t already looking at, as the risk in those names can be dangerous.”


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