The New York Times has an interesting article, Japanese Housewives Sweat in Secret as Markets Reel about housewives losing a lot of money in trading forex.
Since the credit crisis started shaking the world financial markets this summer, many professional traders have taken big losses. Another, less likely group of investors has, too: middle-class Japanese homemakers who moonlight as amateur currency speculators.
Ms. Itoh is one of them. Ms. Itoh, a homemaker in the central city of Nagoya, did not want her full name used because her husband still does not know. After cleaning the dinner dishes, she would spend her evenings buying and selling British pounds and Australian dollars.
When the turmoil struck the currency markets last month, Ms. Itoh spent a sleepless week as market losses wiped out her holdings. She lost nearly all her family’s $100,000 in savings.
While a lot of people have made fortunes trading forex (like George Soros), when a large number of housewives enter the market, its a sure signal that the market top is in. The lay people are always the last people to enter any bull market and like we saw in the internet bubble in 2000, mark the last phase of speculators to rush to profit from quick, easy money.
Apparently this greed-driven mania manifests itself regularly, prompting Alan Greenspan to observe that humans might never be able to protect themselves from bubbles. The history of manias has been well documented going back hundreds of years in Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds. If you haven’t read it I strongly recommend you pick up a copy at your local library. Another new book on the subject is Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics, which is on my long and never-ending list of books to read and has come highly recommended.