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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The stock market's sell signals keep mounting but the prices keep rising, leaving investors wondering just what comes next.

What's happening: Signs of euphoria abound, suggesting the market is getting overheated — a classic sell sign. But in a market underpinned by the Federal Reserve's limitless money printer, dip buyers have continued to step in and markets are piling on risk.

By the numbers: The S&P 500 has risen 87% since its low on March 23, 2020, adding $50 trillion worth of value to the index in just over a year, the best 12-month rally since the 1930s.

  • Investors have continued to lever up to plow money into the stock market, borrowing a record $823 billion against their portfolios as of March, according to data from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
  • That's a more than 72% year-over-year increase.
  • The numbers have continued to climb further above January's record of $799 billion.

Where it stands: At the beginning of April, the amount of money that had flowed to stocks globally over the past five months had exceeded the inflow seen over the prior 12 years by well over $100 billion, according to data from Bank of America Global Research.

The big picture: The sea change in psychology means more investors are making increasingly risky bets and putting more of their money into stocks.

  • Retail traders also are growing their influence in the market, another classic sign a bubble is about to pop.
  • Mom and pop traders now account for almost as much trading as all hedge funds and mutual funds combined, FT reports.

Watch this space: Institutional investors, company insiders and hedge funds are all starting to sell.

  • BofA's data show last week its clients had the largest outflows in five months and the fifth-largest on record. Retail clients were the only net buyers.
  • The ratio of company insiders, like CEOs and other top executives, who are selling versus buying stock in their companies is hitting extreme levels, as the insiders unload positions.

Yes, but: Selling has proved to be 2021's riskiest wager, Bloomberg notes. The S&P 500 has yet to decline by more than 5% this year and has now gone 211 days without such a decline, per Reuters.

  • Excluding the S&P's five best sessions, the index’s 11% year-to-date gain has been only 2%.
  • That's highly unusual: The S&P 500 has declined at least 5% every 177 calendar days, Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, told Reuters.

The bottom line: "To try to guess that this is the right time to be out of the market, you may as well go to Las Vegas," Mark Stoeckle, chief executive at Adams Funds, told Bloomberg. "Here’s just as much risk doing that."

Go deeper

Kate Marino, author of Markets
Aug 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

Debt investors retreat from funding dirty energy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Banks are coming under fire from all sides for their role in funding fossil fuel companies, even though most have pledged to pull back over the coming decades.

What's happening: Despite pressure from activists, shareholders and Democratic politicians to finally divest from carbon-spewing businesses as the planet warms, the biggest American banks are still energetically backing dirty energy.

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.