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I lost my best friend and feel like I'm in a dark place atm

A few weeks ago, I received the news that my best and only friend had passed away.
It took me by complete surprise and am completely heartbroken about it. His name was Martin.
I don't really know why I'm telling part of my story here, I guess its so i have something written down that I can come back to in the future and reminisce. Or maybe even have someone who can relate or offer advice.
I've never really written anything and I'm not the best with words, so I'm sorry if it's uninteresting or if i ramble on a bit. I'm just going to write what comes to mind.
So the story begins. I am and have always been a bit shy and reserved (especially in high school). As apposed to Martin, who was more outgoing and funny.
We both met eachother in the first year of high school. We were friendly but weren't in the same classes or groups (he was with the skateboarders and I was with the wogs, however im caucasian and not a wog). We basically just caught the same bus to and from School as we lived close together.
Martin was an only child and his parents had divorced early in highschool. He was living with his father who had remarried and later had another child with his stepmom. He never got on with his stepmom and didn't have much to do with his brother at the time. I only met her once or twice. But from all accounts from Martin, she sounded like a nasty person.
For a bit of context his step mom is Chinese and is a psychologist (Martin is Caucasian). He had told me his stepmom had once blamed him for having a miscarriage because his computer games were too loud. I guess being a teenager put in that situation couldn't of been easy.
It wasn't until 16 where we started hang out more, we had both left school early. I guess our love of weed , skateboarding and gaming connected us along with the fact that his parents were never around for most of the day.
So it became a daily ritual of me and a few of my friends I hung out with from school gaming and getting high at his place. After a while I drifted from my high school group and started to hang out with just Martin. It was clear they were never really my true friends and they were just using us for weed and a place to smoke. Regardless of what we were doing it was great to just hang out with him.
Martin had a small group of friends from highschool who I had never really talked to. Eventually we started to hang out more as a group and just smoke and play games etc. We all got along fine, however I never connected to anyone as I did with martin.
Now it was around the time we were 18 when martin tried lsd. I wasn't really aware of psychedelics at the time and had no knowledge of them. The extent of my drug knowledge and use was just weed, pills and coke basically.
Just a bit of background too on our weed use.. Martin was a heavy smoker and would basically smoke an ounce every week. Martin had access to his fathers atm card and would withdraw upwards of $300 a week. (His father was well off and whether he knew or not he never mentioned it) So this was how he was able to afford it. I however have always had a job since I left school with no more than a few months of unemployed at a time. Martin worked at EB games for a few months as an after school casual, which turned into more shifts when he left school, but then one day they just suddenly stopped giving him shifts and that was it. I was a daily smoker too but like 1/4 of what he smoked because I couldn't afford it and had to hide it from my family, plus I had work commitments aswell.
So back to Martin taking LSD.. we were in a hotel room smoking up with a few of my old friends from high school and he had taken his dose around 8pm. I had to leave before he started tripping, as I had work the next morning.
Whatever happened that night it had a profound effect on him and it changed him. I guess looking back it was one of the keys that unlocked the doors for what would be a life of struggle and pain. So after his trip, he sort of became a little disconnected from reality and acted like he was above the rest of us, sort of like he knew more about life and the universe than any of us.
Anyway we all sort of had a falling out and lost contact. I started to hang out with this new group of friends without Martin present anymore. We would just hang out mostly smoking and just talking about random stuff. After a few months we all sort of started talking again, Martin seemed to be mostly back to normal.
Around this time Martin's father had sold his house and built a new home elsewhere, so Martin went to go live with his mother in a small unit not far from me. All I remember of those times, were how stress free and simple life seemed just spending everyday just hanging out, skateboarding, smoking , playing video games and whatever else.
His mum had her own mental health issues and her mind wasn't all there. She didn't care if we smoked in the house either.
So over the course we grew really close, i trusted him more than anyone and felt I could be my true self around him. Someone who never judged me. We had a great connection.
About this time, I had been reading alot about psychedelics and had become somewhat obsessed with wanting to experiment with them. We came across something called DMT, which just sounded insane. So we set about making our own. It was relatively easy and we managed to produce a largish amount.
I'll mention that a couple of guys from our group had started to get a bit weird and develop psychotic symptoms. I'm just going to say it is my firm belief that weed isn't the cause but simply the trigger for underlying mental conditions. Basically if you have an underlying condition like schizophrenia, weed is going to accelerate or trigger the conditon. If it wasnt there to begin with i feel there is very little chance of developing any serious mental issues due to marijuana.
One guy in our group just kind of disappeared one day after having a psychotic episode watching Benjamin button, it just fully fucked with his head for some reason. I heard he quit smoking and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Just living day by day on medication and dealing with his issues.
One other guy still hung out with us but just didn't smoke as much. We tried to advice him against it and did our best to help.. regardless there were some bizarre moments.
One time about 5 of us were watching TV and talking about some advertisement that came on. Out of nowhere the guy just flipped out because he thought we were all somehow secretly talking shit about him. Or he would just smoke a bowl and just sit there with his head in his hands, like he was in deep thought about something, it would make us all pretty uneasy.
Anyway back to the Dmt.. we made it at one of our friends house when their parent's went away for a few days. When we tried it for the first time no one tripped, we all just got this intense body high, which I personally found to be super uncomfortable.
We had organised a few days trip to the snow where we would try the dmt again. We had done alot more research and learned about breaking through and how to do it. I went first, i was nervous af but I always felt i had a stable mind to handle whatever happens. So i packed it in the middle of some bud and slowly vaped it and held it in as long as I could then whilst heavily under the effects took another large hit.. I close my eyes and BAM! I was seeing things I never thought possible and even with my eyes closed it was as if I was seeing it as clear as anything like if my eyes were wide open. The geometrical shapes, formations and insane visuals just blew my mind. It lasted only 4 or 5 mins and when I came down , it was the ultimate euphoria with no negative side effects besides the harshness of the smoke.
Martin and a few others had their turn with similar experiences.
The guy who had those delusions of us all talking about him instead of about the ad on TV. Well he was there wanted to try it, and in hindsight we should of really done more stop it. He smoked it and just sat on the couch looking at the TV with his head in his hands. It was a pretty tense moment because we didn't know what was going on in his head at the time. When he came to, he just looked up at us all and ran straight for the front door and ran outside. One guy managed to run after him and get him to come back. He literally thought we were trying to kill him that night. It was a pretty uneasy night having a mentally unstable person just sit there on his bed, while were all laying down trying to sleep.
Over the course of the next year or so I would hang out at Martins almost every night after work. We smoked alot and I would shout him food and weed regularly because he wasn't working and just living of his Gov payments.
We would also smoke Dmt occasionally (over 30 times i would say). There were some real large doses that we would take, which would catapult you into another living and breathing dimension with all sorts of alien like architecture and entities that would interact with you.
Around the time I was 19 or 20 I had decided I needed to change my lifestyle as I was real overweight from eating pizza and junk food all the time and just smoking way too much.
I really wanted a girlfriend, something i hadn't had since i was 16 or so. I took a break and started to diet and exercise, at my most i weighed about 110kg and I got down to 74kg. I didn't see much of Martin at this time.
I don't know what lead up to this moment, but I was in the city by myself one night, i cant remember why..maybe i trying to pick up a girl at the club or something. Anyway I found myself at kings Cross looking for some drugs. Somehow I found myself with a point of coke and a random junkie chick who scored for me, offering to shoot me up if I shared with her.
And so I found myself in an alley with 2 random junkies that were shooting up Heroin. I always told myself I would never use a needle in my life.. but here I was. The rush was unlike anything I had experienced, it was awesome and I wanted more. However the biggest downside was the comedown from the high was extremely uncomfortable and unpleasant for me.
Anyway I figured I wouldn't meet anyone at a bar because for one I was too shy and second I didn't have anyone to go out with. So I put up a profile online... these were the days of MySpace before Facebook had lifted off and there was no tinder. I'd consider myself decent looking and had always had a girlfriend throughout most of highschool. I just let myself go once i left.
So not long after I came across a cute girl and we started talking, the online convos were really short and not the most interesting. Didnt really think anything was there, but one day out of nowhere she asked if I wanted to hang out and go drinking. So I thought whatever, why not.
Before I met her I had never really been into alcohol, I just didn't like the taste and the fact you had to consume a bit to get a buzz, where as with weed its instant and cost way less.
So our 1st outing was pretty uncomfortable, we didn't have a lot to talk about and she didn't seem too interested. But I guess due to the alcohol I spent the night at her place, we made out and that was it. I kept thinking about her and called her the next day to see if she wanted to go out again, she said ok. She was surprised I called her. It then turned into a weekly thing.
Around the same time i had gotten back into contact with Martin and had learned he was currently a patient at a mental health facility. He had a psychotic episode, where he went out into the street and threw some digital scales at a passing police car. I guess the psychedelics and heavy marijuana use along with a family history of mental illness (his mother had bipolar), finally took its toll on his mind. He spent the first few nights in a locked down psych ward where he told me he had smoked a joint with some other dude whilst inside.
Anyway he started living in one of the cottages on site with about 5 other people..in total there might of been around 6 cottages on the grounds. They were allowed to roam around a bit but had to be present for medication (which was given against his will) and dinner time, i believe the nurses also checked up every hour or so.
So I went to visit him a few times a week (no one else from our group did). It would become a ritual every Friday night, I would bring over some bud to smoke then head to the city to see this girl. Martin's curfew would be at 9 then I would catch the train to the city and would have to wait 3 or 4 hours until she finished work, so around 1am. She was a waitress who would finish at 11 or 12 at night and had to catch an hour ferry ride back to the city where she lived too. So we wouldn't really start our night till after 1am. Just going drinking, eating out or to the club with her and often with her work friends too.
It was an awesome time.. but in the background I was kind of struggling with an addiction to coke, shooting up a few times a week. Spending money i didn't have. Eventually I found myself 5k in debt.
The only reason I stopped.. and thank fuck too, was what had happened with this guy that I met whilst hanging out at the cottages. He had gotten out and called me to see if we could get some coke together. Unfortunately my contact was unavailable and we ended up scoring some speed instead of some random junkie. Went back to mine and this guy was having a hard time mixing it up, but didn't think much of it as i figured he had experience with speed. He went first and I second, as soon as I shot it up it felt like rocks and sand coursing through my veins and I thought fuck, is this it for me.. I thought I was going to die, luckily it subsided and I made a decision right there to never do it again. I never spoke to the guy ever again.
I hid it from the girl, she never knew at the time, though eventually I told her but downplayed it. The only person I told was Martin, I even introduced it to him and he had tried it a couple of times.
Looking back its crazy to think of that facility and what everyone got up to unbeknown to the staff. Some things that come to mind are the fact that he was in there against his will for mental health reasons and there he was smoking bongs inside his room, blowing smoke out the window. Or the time 3 or 4 of us shot up coke by the grounds. Basically some people were just getting high all the time.
Seeing the people inside that facility with real mental heath issues, really opened my eyes to the struggles that so many people are going through and in a system that is pretty broken. Just in his cottage alone there was a lady who was really nice persom and seemed normal enough but her personality could change in an instant and she would be yelling and banging on the doors. Another guy would pace up and down non stop for hours..never said a word either.
Then there was the drug induced cases, where one guy was having paranoid delusions, thinking someone was trying to kill him because he was fucked up on meth all the time. Who also just so happens to be the same guy i shot up the speed with. I remember this one young guy, who was very soft spoken and just looked like a shell of a person..he had walked in on his best friend after he hung himself in another room of the house they were at that night.
Looking back, we were so young and fearless.. I don't think I would have the balls these day's to hang out smoking weed at a mental health facility and pretending I was a patient if someone saw me.
Anyway i kept seeing this girl, things were going good. Until one day out of nowhere she said she didn't want to hang out anymore with no real explanation. I was pretty devastated. Though I didn't consider us girlfriend/boyfriend at this stage because we had never even talked about it. Still I had strong feelings for her and was a bit heartbroken. I cant remember exactly what happened next but she sent me a message soon after asking me to buy beer and come over. So i did and seemingly like that we were back hanging out. Not long after it was her birthday, and she was having a small party at her place. Was just her and some work friends, all having a fun time. Sometime in the night some guy was knocking on the door asking to see the girl I was with. Everyone just ignored it and I didn't think much of it. After a while we wanted to go to a bar just us 2. So we're just walking when some guy just appears out of nowhere. Guess he was pretty cut she was with me and tried to fight me. She diffused the situation and we left.
Come to learn that she had met him online before me and had hung out a few times. But she wasn't interested once she started to fall for me. So he basically started stalking her when she stopped talking to him. I didn't really care because when they met we weren't exactly a couple, we were just hanging out and having fun. I was kind of happy knowing she chose me.
So things were getting serious, and one night she told me she loved me, it took me by surprise because I didn't know exactly how she felt for me. But man, I was happy because I felt like i was in love with her too.
Not long after she asked me to move in with her and so i did. It was a share house with probably 7-8 people, most of whom worked together at the same resteraunt (they were all Thai, as is she). Then one day she told me all about how she was here on a student visa and they were going to cancel it because she wasn't attending classes. I didnt know what to do, I was so in love that I couldn't imagine loosing her and so I asked her if she wanted to get married and she said yes.
We got married at the registry with only my parent's present, it was real basic. We soon got kicked out of the place we were staying, and so we decided to move into my parents place.
We went to Thailand shortly after for a holiday and to meet her family. Just before I left Australia I went to the doctor who gave me some valium as I was dealing with aggresion and anger issues, I wouldn't be able to control myself at times.
I had put it down to the after affects of my coke use, as I had never been this way before.
The first night we had a pretty big fight, we were inside her friends apartment aswell. Whatever happened to me, I just lost complete control and the rage took over. There was a pair of scissors on the table which I grabbed and without thinking slashed my arm 4 times. When I calmed down a bit and looked at my arm and the damage I had done. My anger turned to a bit of panic and being in a foreign country, I pleaded to my wife to get me to hospital and told her she could leave me after if she wanted. She stuck by me, and that's why I love her.
I put it down to the valium and never took it again. I never had anything like it happen since and my anger issues are pretty much under control.
Martin had moved back into home with his mom, and we used to hang out regularly when my wife would be working at night. At one point we had a falling out over like $5. I was kinda pissed since i had shouted him hundreds over the years on buds, food etc and he was going after me for $5 . He even showed up at my doorstep one day starting shit. He later reached out and apologised. The next time I went and saw him, he had put on alot of weight and had recently lost his mother. He was now living alone.
Over the next few years it was definitely a rough time. Marrying at 21, living with my parents and just lack of life experience combined. There were fights, lying, drug use behind her back. She hated drugs and was against me using them. Eventually she always caught me out.
I was still smoking on and off with Martin and hanging out together. I think it was around the time we were 28 when Martin decided to call it quits on smoking weed completly because it was messing up his body and mind. He had taken long breaks before but this was permanent.
My parent's had sold our home and divorced. So my wife and I had started renting. As much as i hated living at home with my wife and parents, it allowed us to travel overseas every year and save up enough for a house deposit.
So anyway now instead of smoking with Martin we would have a few drinks at his place or head to the local pub for some drinks and a game of pool. Probably hang out 3 to 4 times a month.
Just before I turned 29 my wife got pregnant and we decided to move state and buy a house, as Sydney was too expensive for us. We lasted less than a year.. it was a tough time, i got a transfer through work and it was a horrible experience working in this new environment. Topped with a newborn, money issues and lack of seeing my family.. i was stressed and turned to marijuana to escape after i had promised my wife i wouldn't. Of course she caught me and it wasn't good.. i was so close to loosing them for good.
Ultimately we decided that we would sell our place and try a for life in Thailand. Moved back to Sydney to my mum's place to try and save a bit more money.
Saw Martin every so often, as my time was real limited. He seemed to be doing a little better, he had started a casual job at a pizza shop, his first job in over 10 years. It was good for him to get out of the house, mixing with people. Unfortunately the pizza place went out of business after just a few months.
We would chat and play games online on our ps4s whenever I had some spare time. Loved to play Battlefield, been playing together since the days of Battlefield Vietnam back on pc.
Finally moved to Thailand in October 2019, whilst my wife was pregnant with my second child.
I saw Martin just before i left and it was sad to be moving so far away from my only friend.
So were living in Thailand with my wife's family, we ended up building a small home on her spare land.
Then Covid happened..our business wasn't producing any income and we ended up clearing though most of our savings..but regardless it was a mostly happy time since i got to spend every day with my family.
We had no choice but to come back to Australia.. it wasnt what we thought it was, life wasn't easy and stress free. Our dreams of living a simpler life, having our own business and being more self sustained. Thing's weren't like when we first went to Thailand 10 years ago. Everything had gotten expensive , less and less friendly and alot more rude people around. Money is everything in Thailand, and pretty much decides how you are treated as a person in society. Still, there are many things I love about Thailand.
We arrived back late June 2020, moved with mum again and just spent time settling in and looking for a place to rent.
I never told martin my plans of coming back to Sydney, I wanted it to be a surprise.
The last time I messeged him was on the 7th June , I just said what's been happening?
He replied on the 11th with "in hospital man sucks"
I replied "shit what happened"
No response, i just figured he didn't have internet access or something.
So I sent him another message on the 14th saying "well best of luck anyway, hope its nothing serious".
he replied "cheers man, nah just mental hospital. How you doing man?"
I replied "not too bad, hope you can get out of hospital soon"
He replied "cheers man"
That was our last contact.
It was pretty simple and short, which wasn't like him.
I sent him a message on the 25th August on facebook just to say hey and that, I didn't get a reply. Tried his PSN account with nothing.. i messaged a friend on his Facebook who i knew he spoke to occasionally.. he hadn't heard from him in a while either. I thought well he just hasn't recharged his phone credit, he might still be in the mental hospital.
I called around a few places with nothing. I went and buzzed his home 3 days in a row with no answer.. i was like wtf where was he... did something happen to him? I left a note in his mail box for whoever reads it to contact me because I was trying to reach Martin for a while.
I'll never forget the moment I got that call on Saturday afternoon, I knew that voice anywhere, it was martin's father.. my heart immediately sank, I knew what news was coming.
He said i found your note, im sorry but ive got some bad news, Martin had passed away on the 27th of August. He had been admitted to the hospital one night when he started to feel dizzy and was throwing up. They ran some tests and it came back to be brain cancer. The conversation is kind of a blur but he moved into his fathers home and spent the remainder of his life with his family. Im sure deep down he loved his father and brother, even though they had a strained relationship. He had said Martin had lost his memory and the passwords to his laptop and phone, so he was unable to contact any of his friends. He mentioned he would send some photos of Martin if I wanted to see them.
Fuck man it hit me so hard, I've never lost somebody I've cared about before. It was an intense set of emotions. From sadness to anger and regret.
I was real angry, how could the world take him like this..he was only 32, he didn't deserve it. Did he know how much I cared about him.. why didn't I make more effort to talk to him and just contact him more often to check in on him. Why didn't I go to his house earlier and put that note in.. I might of been able to see or talk to him before it was too late. Just so many things going through my head, from the memories we shared to the memories we can no longer create together.
I took his father up on his offer to send some photos of Martin's last few months. He sent a few photos with a message. Its hard to look at the photos, Martin had lost so much weight and was real skinny. His father had said he became ill on the 15th April, when he came to live with them until August when he went into palliative care at hospital. He received the best of care and did not suffer any pain. He died on the 27th August from brain cancer (Grade 4).
Thinking of how he told me he was in a mental hospital on the 11th June, after which he would of already known his diagnosis. I was like fuck man, I wish you had of told me. But I don't blame him at all, I mean how do you deal with your own mortality. Ultimately would it of made any difference?.. I don't know.
He was living a life of loneliness, struggling with his mind and the demons within. A troubled life..I just wish life was better for him. But i think for the most part he was glad to be here. If I had to say one thing Martin ever wanted to do in life was to make music. He was heavily into underground hip hop, his favourite artist was Aesop Rock. He tried making a few beats and spitting some rhymes. But I guess he struggled with motivation and just missed that spark. Most of all to me, he had been a part of my life for as long i can remember.. more than half of it. We have told each other stuff nobody else knows. Been through so much together over the years.
I cant believe you never got to play the last of us 2 or even got to see what the playstation 5 looked like.. no more battlefield or late night chats. We were so excited about the ps5 coming, and now I'd be lucky to even afford one. With the ps5 literally a week away, it hits home even harder, I feel like it's just not the same if we can't enjoy it together.
It seems like this time last year I had it all, and in a year I've lost everything but my family. What took us 10 years to save is gone, my best friend is gone. Everything I had.
Last time I had help by staying with my parents, no kids, and my youth. Now this time around I'm already -20k that I had to borrow from my father to help me out, I had told him wouldn't need to use it, but i had no choice. He doesn't have much money to live off by, so I can't just not pay him back. I don't know how will I ever recover from this, I have no education or skills.
I feel like I've come to a point in my life where it just seems like I'm just wasting away. I have my family who is everything to me, even though my marriage isn't always the best. My 3 year old son who is my world, just so smart, funny and a real personality but also extremely active and naughty. My 7 month son who i love, but is super difficult and hard work. Somehow I'm just not as patient as I used to be and get annoyed at him all the time. I would never hurt him but it makes it hard to like him and I hate myself for it. I know he's just a baby and once this stage ends, things will be alot different hopefully.
It just feels like I'm a looser and failing at life. I look around me and all I see are families with nice homes, jobs and cars. And all I want to do is be able to provide that for my family. So that they have a place to call home and build the future they deserve. Make the kind of memories that can only be made in a home.
But how can I ever achieve that with my current situation and house prices are insane. I guess I have to accept that..but thinking about how sudden Martin lost his life, made me think of my own and what if that was me. My family would be left with nothing and my children without a father.
Right now all I care about is trying to make the best life for my children. Make sure they have a comfortable and loving upbringing, good education and a solid family relationship. Not make the same mistakes I did , by not following any clear path in life and working lower paying jobs.
Not putting effort into maintaining my own relationship's with my parents and brothers. I rarely speak to my father and never had a good relationship. I won't let that happen to my children.
So right now I've set a goal to work on my health and lack of energy. Enjoy my time with the family. These two kids sure are alot of work.
Beginning in the new year I'll start looking for work and keep on chugging along, trying to make it work for us. I'll be honest being 20k under and having a car in Thailand that I have to make monthly payments on for the next 6 years is an extremely depressing and demotivating thought.
On top of that i put on a fair bit of weight being out of work for a year and being not as active as I was. I started my diet at 103kg and I'm down to 88, I want to loose 10kg more. I want to make it a life goal to get back into skating and relearn the basics, a few flip tricks, grinding and ollieing simple stuff. I always had a love of skateboarding, which I shared with Martin and I want to pass that on to my sons and be able to skate around together.
I tried to get back on the board and I'm pretty hopeless, i can barely Ollie and lack confidence. I guess being a bit overweight and the fact my body doesn't work like when I was younger. I'm hoping that loosing a bit more weight will make it alot easier to move around and commit to the tricks.
I'm sick of living a life of fighting my addictions and constant procrastination. Its always been either food, drugs, alcohol, porn.. just something. I just hope I can do something before it's too late.
I just miss you so much Martin. I hope you made peace. I will always remember the days we spent together. I feel like ive lost a piece of myself.
I love you my brother.
P.S. Fuck cancer man.
EDIT: Wow, thankyou guys for the awards, I didn't think many people would actually read my post. Thankyou to all of you for taking the time to read it, I know it was pretty long. I'm very humbled by all your comments and well wishes. Sending my love back to you all.
submitted by jackinsally to relationship_advice

5

WSJ: A Stock Market Bubble? It’s More Like a Fire

I found today's Intelligent Investor column interesting - in regards to the recent surges in EV stocks, SPACs, etc.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-stock-market-bubble-its-more-like-a-fire-11605888002?mod=hp_lead_pos12
The stock market isn’t a bubble, but parts of it are on fire.
So far in 2020, the NYSE FANG+ index of giant technology stocks is up 78%. The Renaissance IPO ETF, IPO 1.45% an exchange-traded fund that holds recent public offerings, is up 84%. The SPDR S&P Kensho Clean Power ETF, CNRG +1.35% which invests in renewable-energy companies, has gained 88%.
Meanwhile, the overall stock market is up almost 11%.
That’s a key difference.
For years, anyone who thinks any financial asset is somewhat overvalued has called it a bubble. The financial use of “bubble” originated centuries ago to describe massive speculation that inflates market prices to the bursting point.
Financial bubbles have never had a formal definition, though, and they are diabolically difficult to identify without the benefit of hindsight. A new book, “Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles,” by finance scholars William Quinn and John Turner of Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, helps clarify the muddled thinking on the topic.
The image of a bubble is itself a misnomer. As any kid who’s ever chewed gum knows, bubbles often barely expand before bursting, and they don’t bother anybody much except parents and teachers.
Financial markets, however, can easily heat up fivefold or even 10-fold and then collapse at least 50% in a flash, burning millions of speculators and sometimes charring entire economies. Think of the U.S. after the stock market crash of 1929, or Japan 60-plus years later.
Rather than regarding overvalued assets as a bubble, we might consider them a fire. The more it expands and the hotter it gets, the more havoc it can wreak.
“Boom and Bust” looks closely at 300 years’ worth of market manias using the metaphor of “the fire triangle.” That image has long been evoked to explain the conditions necessary for flames to erupt and persist: oxygen, fuel and heat. Remove one, and you can prevent or put out a fire.
The oxygen of investing is marketability, or the ease of buying and selling an asset. Centuries ago, that meant carving up difficult-to-transfer corporate ownership into tradable shares. Nowadays it’s carrying a stockbroker in your pocket. With a smartphone-trading app, you can buy or sell so-called fractional shares in increments anyone can afford.
On popular trading apps like Robinhood, you can put as little as $1 in Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Class A shares, which cost about $345,000 apiece. You can trade that morsel of approximately 0.000003 shares commission-free.
The second side of the fire triangle, fuel, is manifested in financial markets by money and credit. Low interest rates make investing with borrowed money cheaper, while paltry yields on safe savings compel people to invest in riskier alternatives.
Today, borrowed money fuels mega-billion-dollar private-equity firms buying entire companies—and individual investors conducting small “margin” trades with as little as $2,000 in a brokerage account.
The third side of the triangle, heat, is supplied by speculation. When prices go up, more people buy, inflaming prices even more and attracting another rush of speculators.
That lures in naive buyers who think making money is easy. But hedge funds and other institutions also chase those hot returns, fanning the flames even higher.
The “Boom and Bust” book completes the metaphor by noting that the fire triangle has in recent years been updated with a fourth component, an “exothermic chain reaction.”
Marketability, credit and speculation are necessary, but not sufficient, to start and maintain a market fire. A fourth component, what the authors call a “spark,” is also needed.
That can come from new technology, government intervention or both. The stock-buying binge of the late 1990s was sparked by euphoria over the potential of the internet. China’s more-recent market booms have been stoked by government policies and propaganda.
“Boom and Bust” shows that most bubbles tend to be confined to a few stocks or industries.
That was true in 1824-25, when Latin American mining stocks listed in London rose more than fivefold in roughly six months, while British blue-chip companies lost almost a tenth of their market value. Again in London, in the 1890s, shares in bicycle companies more than doubled in a year even as major stocks went nowhere.
In 1999, with internet stocks going ga-ga, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index gained 86%. Without technology companies, the S&P 500 would have been up only 5%.
Today isn’t much different.
In proportion to market size—which weights giant tech stocks heavily—the companies in the S&P 500 recently traded at 21 times expected earnings over the next 12 months, according to Matarin Capital Management, an investment firm in New York. That’s about 24% higher than their average over the past quarter-century.
To counteract the effect of a handful of giant stocks, however, we can weight companies equally. In that light, the S&P 500 is at about 17 times expected earnings, roughly 10% above its long-term average. That implies that most stocks aren’t cheap—but are hardly overstretched.
I don’t see much cause for concern about overheating in relatively small areas like newly listed stocks, alternative-energy firms and shell companies formed to do buyouts.
The bigger worry is that a fire among a few giant stocks can set the neighborhood ablaze. After the technology-heavy Nasdaq index collapsed in 2000, the broader S&P 500 also tumbled.
Recently, smaller companies and cheap “value” stocks have started to show signs of recovery—which, if it persists, could reduce the market weight of blazing-hot giants like Amazon.com Inc. That might be the firebreak that this market needs.
submitted by Trisolaran_arbitrage to investing