Unprecedented retail participation and cheap money have come together to push most markets to record highs in 2021. The strength of the mother market, the US, is imparting resilience to other developed markets and emerging markets like India. The exuberant retail participation is a totally new development that has made market prediction extremely complex.

A couple of data points that throw light on the unprecedented retail exuberance and its impact on markets would help us to get the issue in perspective. In 2021 alone, US investors have downloaded 15 million trading apps and invested $1 trillion in equity. This investment is higher than the cumulative investment made during the last 20 years. Retail investors in the US now own 12 times more stocks than hedge funds. Cheap money has provided a favorable context for investing/ trading in stocks .

This explosion in retail participation is a global phenomenon triggered by the pandemic. In emerging markets, this trend is conspicuous in India. Retail participation is desirable but the concern is about exuberance and total disregard for valuations.

An important lesson from stock market history is that a sharp crash is followed, more often than not, by a sharp rebound. Stock market often overreacts: both on the upside and the downside. During the euphoria of a bull market, valuations reach unsustainable levels, leading to a sharp correction. The panic during a crash takes valuation to very low levels, which in turn leads to buying, triggering recovery. This pattern repeats. This has implications for investors.

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