It's Debt Defying

Investors are heading into dangerous territory. They've never borrowed so much to buy stocks

Money managers call it the doomsday scenario, forseeing an event that could wipe out investor portfolios and wreak havoc on the stock market. The danger stems not from new financial woes erupting abroad but from something happening here. It is the explosive growth in margin debt--loans Americans take out to buy stocks. Margin debt has shot up to $180 billion at midyear, a 25% increase in just six months and by far the most ever recorded. It now accounts for 1.2% of the stock market's total capitalization.

That doesn't seem like much, but it's a level not seen since the last...

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