Nancy Davis, the chief investment officer and founder of advisory firm Quadratic Capital, garnered attention back in October 2017 when she predicted that a preternatural period of placidity in the stock market was about to come to an ugly end. Four months later, it did, in spectacular fashion.

Then, amid renewed ebullience over technology and internet-related stocks, she cautioned in July that the U.S. market’s bull run — notably among tech-centered shares — was set to come apart against the backdrop of a tumbling international market.

She was right about that, too.

Read: Which Wall Street forecasters should you listen to now? Here’s who nailed it in 2018 (and who bombed)

That brings us to our call of the day from Davis, who told MarketWatch that corners of the debt market, particularly private credit markets like leveraged loans, are ”very frothy,” because “a lot of investors have used leveraged loans” as a way of getting richer yields.

“It’s definitely bubblicious,” Davis said. She also said those complex purchases of loans, which are used partly to finance private-equity transactions, may be fostering much of the current volatility exhibited by global equity markets.

The leveraged-loan borrowing in the U.S. has quietly ballooned over the past two years, surging way beyond levels since during the 2007 financial crisis. Such borrowing in the U.S. hit a record in 2017 at $1.66 trillion and was at $1.46 trillion in 2018, according to Dealogic. That represents the biggest two-year growth ever in the industry (see table below).

Year U.S. leveraged loan borrowing $mlns No. of Deals
1995 181,068 904
1996 232,064 1,179
1997 332,460 1,751
1998 439,102 2,051
1999 425,292 1,920
2000 392,645 1,801
2001 256,991 1,376
2002 308,674 1,398
2003 400,467 1,592
2004 503,570 1,930
2005 635,452 2,119
2006 804,202 2,284
2007 1,191,263 2,238
2008 535,568 1,540
2009 286,045 1,158
2010 535,619 1,454
2011 805,613 2,080
2012 894,348 2,385
2013 1,251,252 2,821
2014 1,117,911 2,637
2015 960,170 2,124
2016 1,164,612 2,447
2017 1,656,194 3,207
2018 YTD 1,458,577 2,923
Source: Dealogic

Part of Davis’s argument is that investors in leveraged loans are subject to multiyear lockup periods where they cannot sell those assets, which, as a byproduct, forces those large investors to seek liquidity by selling public assets, such as stocks.

Check out: Here’s why stock-market bulls are banking on January to steady the ship

She said private debt can be attractive because it isn’t prone to wild intraday price swings, say, after quarterly earnings releases. But also, “it’s just the popular thing to do, and in turn, it’s going to mean more volatility” in other assets, she warned.

”Private markets don’t have liquidity, and that can create volatility in the stock market because when [investors] need cash they are going to go to the more liquid market,” she said.

Volatility may be the least of investors’ concerns, however, with a number of strategists and analysts, including Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi, also sounding alarms about leveraged loans. Moody’s Investors Service in October warned that deterioration in the quality of those types of loans is worrisome; the International Monetary Fund offered its own concerns, as has former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The buzz

All eyes were on Apple

AAPL, +0.11%

on Thursday after the iPhone maker shook up markets late Wednesday by announcing weaker-than-expected iPhone sales. Apple said a slumping Chinese economy is the biggest problem for the tech behemoth, the only public U.S. company to reach a $1 trillion valuation last year before a fourth-quarter collapse for its shares.

Read: Apple cuts holiday sales forecast on iPhone and China weakness, stock falls 8%

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company is creating a sweeping rout in technology shares globally, including in companies like Qorvo

QRVO, +0.74%

Skyworks Solutions

SWKS, +1.40%

as well as Google-parent Alphabet Inc.

GOOG, +0.99%

GOOGL, +0.93%


NFLX, +0.00%

and chip makers like Micron

MU, +3.21%

and Nvidia

NVDA, +2.04%

Check out: Opinion: Apple lives up to Wall Street’s fears with massive revenue shortfall

Markets are also digesting a blockbuster $74 billion announced merger between Bristol-Myers

BMY, +0.87%

 and Celgene

CELG, +3.98%

The market

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.08%

S&P 500

SPX, +0.13%

and Nasdaq Composite

COMP, +0.46%

all looked set to crater at the open, with futures for the Dow

YMH9, -1.44%

S&P 500

ESH9, -1.41%

and particularly the Nasdaq-100

NQH9, -2.16%

trading sharply lower on Apple’s stunner.

Check out the latest in Market Snapshot



was drifting lower after logging its worst year since 2015. The dollar

DXY, +0.04%

and gold


were pretty steady.

The chart

Currency strategists were pointing to a mini flash crash in the yen

USDJPY, -1.14%

versus the dollar

DXY, +0.04%

 in the aftermath of Apple’s report. Here’s one chart that shows the action (h/t Gregory Mckenna):

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