26 Aug 2015

Market jargon: What's a dead cat bounce?

6:52 pm on 26 August 2015

Big drops in the Chinese sharemarket have prompted hundreds of articles, essays and think-pieces on the issue this week - but with plenty of market jargon to wade through, you might not be getting the full story.

Despite phrases such as a 'dead cat bounce', no cats were harmed in the making of this story.

Despite phrases such as a 'dead cat bounce', no cats were harmed in the making of this story. Photo: 123rf.com

Like any major industry, the financial sector has its own sayings and clichés, and some of them might prove baffling to outsiders, such as these phrases:

Dead cat bounce

The 'dead cat bounce' is one phrase that has been used a lot this week, but only dates back to the 1980s. First used by two Financial Times reporters in 1985, it is derived from the ghoulish idea that "even a dead cat will bounce if it falls from a great height". It usually refers to a small, brief recovery in the price of a declining stock or market. Any sign of a 'dead cat bounce' in the Chinese sharemarket is unlikely to be positive, as it usually signals further falls to come.

Triple witching hour / quadruple witching hour

Traditionally, it's the active time for witches and warlocks, but in the financial markets, the triple witching hour is the last hour of the US stock market trading session on the third Friday of every March, June, September, and December, when three kinds of securities - stock index futures, stock index options and stock options - expire. It is also known as the quadruple witching hour when single stock futures are taken into account.

Stagflation

A term used to describe the state of the economy when unemployment and inflation are both high, and the growth rate slows. British Conservative Party politician Iain Macleod is credited with coining the phrase in a speech to the UK Parliament in 1965.

Crowding out

A term to describe what happens when increased government spending replaces, or drives down, private sector spending. It can lead to interest rate rises, and the disappearance of private firms from the credit markets.

Dovish / hawkish

A bird metaphor usually applied to central banks and their comments on the economy and interest rate levels. Dovish indicates the central bank is playing it safe and likely to cut rates, while hawkish comments indicate that a rates rise is on the cards.

Shimming

The dubious practice of a broker stealing a few cents from a client while conducting a trade, ultimately building up a significant amount. It's also highly illegal in most jurisdictions. 'Trading ahead', another immoral form of trading, is seen as shimming.

No caption

Photo: AFP

Bull / bear market

When a stock market falls more than 10 percent from its recent peak, it's called a correction, but if it falls more than 20 percent, then it's generally referred to a 'bear market'.

Its counterpart is the 'bull market' when asset prices are generally rising. The origins of these terms is unclear, and may refer to the way the named animals attack - a bull thrusts his horns up in the air, while a bear swipes downward - or could be a reference to bearskin trading in the 1800s.

Dawn raid

Named for similar early morning operations in wartime, a financial dawn raid is when a substantial number of shares in a company are bought first thing in the morning when the stock markets open, allowing the buyer to build a substantial stake at the prevailing stock market price, lowering the takeover costs.

Rubber band effect

The use of computerised trading programs is largely responsible for the 'rubber band effect', when the market bounces back right away after a large sell-off. Not to be confused with the 'dead cat bounce', it is also known as a V rally due to how it appears on a chart.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs