As if following the latest COVID-19 news while trying to work from a household full of children wasn’t enough, now the financial press is reminding us to worry about a stock market bubble.
The latest market turmoil caused by a battle between iconoclastic amateur traders and Wall Street traditionalists adds to a growing, recent tone of caution in pro-business publications that usually prefer to be upbeat.
Many Canadians don’t keep a close eye on the business pages. But last week, coverage of the strange case of rebel traders, coordinated on Reddit, sticking it to the man by bidding up shares such as video game retailer GamesStop and Waterloo-based Blackberry seemed to strike a chord with the broader public. The CBC’s blow-by-blow reporting on the story has repeatedly been among the most-read stories on our site.
Even before the hoopla around GamesStop, commentators at credible financial publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Bloomberg, plus the business sections of Canadian newspapers such as the Report on Business and the Financial Post, seemed nervous about the state of the markets.
Among established investors, the latest “frenzy” — as the ROB called it in Friday’s banner headline — has only added to the sense of apprehension; even fearless market traders seemed shaken.
‘Unnatural, insane, and dangerous’
Even after he made a reported 1,500 per cent gain on GameStop stock, market guru Michael Burry, made famous by the movie The Big Short after he risked big and won in the 2008 subprime crash, expressed concern.
“What is going on now — there should be legal and regulatory repercussions. This is unnatural, insane, and dangerous,” Burry said in a tweet, now deleted, but widely quoted in the financial press.
There is little doubt that the arrival of non-traditional traders buying and selling on non-traditional platforms like Robinhood has added a new layer of tension to the market. This trend led Scott Barlow, one of the Globe and Mail’s established stock analysts, to pen the headline: “How Robinhood traders could kick off a broad market sell-off.”
Even the name Robinhood, with its reference to the tale of the outlaw who stole from the rich to give to the poor, might be enough to make billionaire hedge fund managers nervous. The irony of Reddit traders being attacked by wealthy speculators for gaming the system has not been lost on satirists like The Beaverton.
But whether triggered by a new cohort of amateurs using their phones to trade the same way they’ve learned to call an Uber, or just a flood of traditional money looking for an alternative to low rates on GICs and bonds, many credible analysts have expressed the view that asset markets may be in a bubble.
“One of the tricky things about asset bubbles is that they cannot be conclusively…