"Please," begs reader
, in response to a recent item here, "enough of this business of 'no fear yet.' The technicals show there was tremendous fear." He forwarded comments from Jim Brown of the
Option Investor Newsletter
, who on Sunday told his clients that his "fear or panic" index had leaped to an unusually high level, suggesting "the mother of all buying opportunities."
And this from
, who writes: "The people who say there wasn't enough fear when the NAZ drops 25% in a week obviously weren't among those selling!
"There wasn't enough fear? After every headline this weekend was about how near the apocalypse was? Markets around the globe falling. Many bearish commentators on TV guessing where the bottom may be. Not there yet?
"I ask you, Herb, when after the NAZ has fallen 25% in a few weeks it is topped off by the biggest one day drop in its history for a total drop of 35% and some
bleep says there hasn't been enough capitulation. The biggest hardest fastest drop in NAZ history and that's not enough. What a yarn."
Then there is an anonymous reader, who writes, "Next time you write an article about lack of fear why don't you do a little more research. I have been sweating bullets and haven't slept in days. When your net equity drops from $27 million to $3 million and you are faced with a margin call that can not be met and are at risk of being completely sold out at the bottom it gets pretty scary. Trust me, I am fearful.
"I had 15% debt on a portfolio largely concentrated in one stock that went from 94 to 17. I have had to cancel the purchase of a second home and will lose a $150,000 deposit.
"When your broker goes from sucking up to you like there is no tomorrow and calling you on your cell phone to tell you about all your buying power to treating you like a a guy who has not paid the rent in 3 months -- believe there is fear. Real fear."
Still, the most recent rout was just another day of volatility for investors who weren't margined. Consider the comments of the reader who said: "I have heard and read many market analysts talk about the lack of fear. Maybe you guys aren't giving the greater investing public enough credit. The economy is humming, growth is likely to slow to an acceptable pace and the markets will probably continue to do nicely over the next three to five years. I think most people with investments understand that, and I think the majority also understand that the breathtaking gains of the last year or two were an anomaly, not the norm.
"You all are assuming it seems, that the larger investing community is going to stay uneducated and naive. I live in a 'blue collar' community, and the ice cream stand at the end of my street has two TV's running
. The stock market has become a matter of common interest."
of Scotts Valley, Calif.: "I don't think the analysts will see the 'fear' in the market that they are looking for (i.e. as in past corrections) simply because the amount and accessibility of information has changed dramatically from the corrections/crashes in the past."
To be sure. With so much information so easily available, bear markets will last just a day. (Anything, after all, is possible!) But watch what happens if
or some other company doesn't meet expectations -- or gives the wrong body language. (Not likely.) Better yet, watch what happens if the government releases yet another unexpectedly bad inflation report. (Am I the only one who remembers what happened last Friday?) What's clear is that while there may have been fear on Wall Street, it hasn't yet spread to Main Street, and until it does -- if it
does -- history says complacency will be an investor's worst enemy.
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at
email@example.com. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.
Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.