Frothy Market

A situation that occurs when an asset's price is inflated only because of market sentiments or cultural trends.

Author: Kevin Henderson
Kevin Henderson
Kevin Henderson
Private Equity | Corporate Finance

Kevin is currently the Head of Execution and a Vice President at Ion Pacific, a merchant bank and asset manager based Hong Kong that invests in the technology sector globally. Prior to joining Ion Pacific, Kevin was a Vice President at Accordion Partners, a consulting firm that works with management teams at portfolio companies of leading private equity firms.

Previously, he was an Associate in the Power, Energy, and Infrastructure Investment Banking group at Lazard in New York where he completed numerous M&A transactions and advised corporate clients on a range of financial and strategic issues. Kevin began his career in corporate finance roles at Enbridge Inc. in Canada. During his time at Enbridge Kevin worked across the finance function gaining experience in treasury, corporate planning, and investor relations.

Kevin holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Queen's University and is a CFA Charterholder.

Reviewed By: Matthew Retzloff
Matthew Retzloff
Matthew Retzloff
Investment Banking | Corporate Development

Matthew started his finance career working as an investment banking analyst for Falcon Capital Partners, a healthcare IT boutique, before moving on to work for Raymond James Financial, Inc in their specialty finance coverage group in Atlanta. Matthew then started in a role in corporate development at Babcock & Wilcox before moving to a corporate development associate role with Caesars Entertainment Corporation where he currently is. Matthew provides support to Caesars' M&A processes including evaluating inbound teasers/CIMs to identify possible acquisition targets, due diligence, constructing financial models, corporate valuation, and interacting with potential acquisition targets.

Matthew has a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in German from University of North Carolina.

Last Updated:November 6, 2023

What is a Frothy Market?

Froth is usually bubbles formed on the top of beverages like coffee and ice-cold beer. Sometimes, these bubbles are formed in the stock market as well. These bubbles put all of the investors in a frenzy due to the abrupt behavior the market shows when it's frothy.

A frothy market is a situation that occurs when an asset's price is inflated only because of market sentiments or cultural trends. Since the price is bloated because of such a subjective reason, the valuations can correct at any time.

Humans are indecisive. Therefore, the hype behind anything or anyone is only for a limited amount of time. Similarly, in the market, once the hype settles behind any asset, the price is bound to fall just as drastically as it rose.

Since the inflation behind the price has no real reason attached to it. The price rise is often perceived as a bubble by seasoned investors, which can burst anytime and cause a disruption in the market. 

The inflation in price without any substantial reason then results in the prices crashing once the hype is dead around the asset. Investors' money could face serious losses if they made huge risky investments under the influence of the bubble.

What is Froth?

The situation right before the actual market bubble is formed referred to as Froth. In a market bubble, the prices of assets are overblown in comparison to their true value. 

The prices are inflated due to impractical demand for the asset among the investors in comparison to its actual value.

The demand among the investors is usually due to a social phenomenon, fad, cultural shift or change, etc. 

The prices jack up as many investors at the same time believe that a particular asset will experience exponential growth shortly. The speculations are completely based on social opinion.

Qualitative and quantitative information about the asset is not taken into consideration before making any financial decisions due to the fear of missing out on a 'Once in Lifetime Opportunity. The herd mentality of us human beings factors in rather drastically.

Instead of trusting their judgment and calculations, people tend to trust the mass's opinion about a concept. Since each individual wants to buy an asset only because others are buying it. The asset's original monetary value is ignored.

This situation acts as a perfect catalyst for the forming of a market bubble that eventually crashes once the hype is over. The crash can result in as serious repercussions as the global recession caused by the real estate bubble.

Understanding a Frothy Market

When the price of an asset shoots up without any qualitative or quantitative data backing, only due to investors’ irrational enthusiasm about the asset, this situation is regarded as Frothy Market. The enthusiasm is usually due to social trends and society’s opinions.

The stock price of the asset drives up only because of a sudden demand created by people only because they assume the asset has the potential to grow immensely. This occurs during the launch of a new commodity or concept that has the capability of revolutionizing the world.

However, the capabilities are not assumed based on any solid research but based on investors’ overconfidence in the product. The demand is also induced by the people’s fear of missing out on a cultural change that might occur only once in their lifetime.

Frothy markets, because of the formation of a market bubble, are very unpredictable. The rise in price due to its impracticality is only short-lived most of the time. The reason behind the rise in the prices becomes the reason for its drastic fall too.

Frothy Market Example

One of the biggest examples is the Dot-com bubble formed during a period between the late 90s and the early 2000s. Internet’s invention changed the world in a few clicks. People were still trying to understand the Internet. 

It had generated mass curiosity and a strong belief among the people that this is the next big thing and rightfully so.

Investors just started investing in any project, even remotely connected to the Internet. Any website was considered promising by all the investors without doing any proper market research. 

The popularity of the product resulted in investors losing their objectivity while making the decision.

Anything technology related was given more attention than it probably deserved based on its merit. Stock prices of the companies that have not been profitable for a long time or, even worse, had not even made any sales were escalating during the onset of the internet era.

Most of the decisions regarding this sector were based on the fear of missing out on something new and lack of knowledge and objectivity as no fundamental or technical analysis would support the financial decisions made by the people.

Investors were willing to pay over the intrinsic value of the asset due to its hype and the speculations about such companies’ ever-prospering future. 

Investors speculated that stock prices would keep rising for a long time, and they would be able to sell these stocks at a high price later on to earn a huge profit.

The valuation of companies was overrated, due to which a huge bubble was created once the hype settled and prices fell back to the asset’s true value. Investors faced heavy losses, which are considered to be the market bubble finally bursting. 

Signals for a Frothy Market

The stock market is known for its dynamic nature. Predicting the future of the market is never an easy task. It requires extensive research and one has to observe various behavior patterns to make any judgment. Even then, no one can guarantee anything.

To determine the occurrence of a frothy market situation even before it has occurred, one needs to stay ahead of the market and notice a few hints the market shows during the formation of a bubble.

1. Highly Overvalued Stocks

A frothy market can be predicted when the abnormal rise in stock prices of an asset can be noticed in the market. It is more suspicious if the asset, in particular, is highly trending in society due to any news or rumors attached to it.

A rise in stock prices is not shocking unless and until the company’s financial position justifies the rise. However, in the case of frothy markets, stocks gaining traction are only because of people’s sentiments and overconfidence associated with the product.

During the Dot-com bubble, a frothy market could be predicted due to the rise in the valuation of tech start-ups that were not profitable. These start-ups neither had made any sales nor had a proper vision ideated for the company.

2. Enthusiasm Among Investors

There are times when the price of an asset is inflated only because of investors’ overconfidence in the asset’s growth potential. The prices surge because of excessive demand among the investors.

Social arbitrage also comes into play. It is a phenomenon where investors’ financial decisions directly or indirectly get affected because of trending topics. 
Investors associate their transient popularity with their growth potential. Sometimes investors also line up for an asset only due to herd mentality.

For instance, cryptocurrency does not have real value till the time the governments regulate it. People still end up buying cryptocurrency in volumes, speculating it to have great value in the future once the world of web 3 transforms into what it potentially can be.

3. Unexpected Increased Returns

As the price rises, initial investors start benefiting from the rise. They start receiving unexpectedly exorbitant returns on their investment. This tempts other investors, mainly the ones who rely heavily on financial tips received from others, to invest in the same commodity.

The rise in the price of these assets after a point is just because of the excessive demand for the asset in the market. This trend sets the stage for a market bubble to be formed.

Even during the Dot-com bubble, technology start-ups were overvalued immensely. Prices of companies that had just incorporated were soaring high. 

Temporarily, increased returns were given to the investors of these companies. However, once the bubble burst, many companies, like Cisco, Intel, etc., experienced a fall of 80% in their prices. 

4. Enthusiasm in the Media

The incoming frothy market becomes most predictable when media outlets start joining the hype about an asset by discussing it on their channels frequently. Investors that have experienced huge capital gains on such speculations are taken up as case studies frequently.

These rags-to-riches stories even attract people who are not even remotely close to the stock market. The company or asset that is experiencing such unexpected highs is on every news channel and is being spoken about by every market expert.

The hype and the formation of a bubble become evident when the phenomenon transcends the boundaries of the financial world and is brought up in conversation in people’s daily lives. 

Many people start investing with no prior market research only because someone in their acquaintance has made easy money by investing in the asset in discussions.

When the whole world is in chaos as people feel there is an opportunity to make easy money through investing in particular stocks, that’s when a bubble has almost taken its shape.

Mistakes to avoid in a frothy market

Trading during a frothy market is a very risky business. Many people can end up making easy money at the onset of the bubble. However, history has it that most of the bubbles that formed eventually burst. The burst is usually followed by a crash in the economy.

It takes a toll on many investors financially. The real estate bubble had huge aftermath. It resulted in a world depression, starting with the United States of America’s economy crippling down. Following are a few mistakes that investors should avoid: - 

1. Bulk Investments

Many investors mistake a frothy market as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Investors assume the frothy market to be an alternative for making easy and quick money. 

It is easy for investors to get influenced by their greed and make risky investments involving huge amounts, which can further lead to huge losses once the bubble bursts.

To avoid getting stuck in situations like these, investors should diversify their portfolios instead of putting all of their eggs in one basket. This is one of the most traditional ways to hedge the risk associated with your investments.

This is advantageous on two fronts. First, investors don’t have a fear of missing out on a great opportunity. Moreover, investors’ gains in other investments can cancel out their losses incurred in the bubble.

2.. Leaving Quality Stocks

Investors can end up changing the allocation between their safe and risky investments during a frothy market. Investors take out money from their safe/quality bets to earn big at once rather than trusting the process of making wealth in the long run.

However, assets involved in the bubble only experience a temporary high. On the other hand, fundamentally strong businesses will perform more consistently and over very extended periods of time. 

Therefore, it is advisable to hold onto such stocks as relying on them is safer in the long run.

3. Overestimate Risk Tolerance

The frothy nature of the market can induce aggression among investors as well. They tend to overestimate their risk tolerance in situations where earning huge amounts of money in a short time seems possible.

Investors should not divert from the approach that has worked well through the years only because the market is rising just because the market is disrupting. It is important to remain objective. 

Investors who usually do not have an aggressive approach to trading can succumb to the pressure. This will only result in them making decisions out of nervousness that might not be the best according to their financial goals.


A frothy market is a situation where asset prices get overinflated. The rise in the market is not backed by any solid research. 

The rise is mainly due to the enthusiasm regarding the asset among the investors. Usually, the rise in the price of an asset is justified by the fundamental analysis or the profitability of the company making this an exception.

Such a situation is usually created at the time of the launch of a new product or a concept in the economy. Recent examples would include the Dot-com and the real estate bubbles that formed in the late 1990s and early 2000s, respectively.

Bubbles are formed when the prices are overinflated. Most bubbles end by bursting once the overinflated prices fall back to their intrinsic value. 

People who had speculated that the trend would continue for longer and they would be able to ensure high returns on their investment eventually get stuck and face heavy losses instead.

For investors, dealing with such a market can be tricky. It can create confusion among investors as this market behavior is not usual and occurs occasionally. This can result in panic selling by investors or just flawed investment decisions influenced by other people’s judgment.

Everyone should stick to the approach that has worked for them in achieving their financial goals. It is fundamental to look at the market objectively and not make hasty decisions because of innate greed. Sticking to the basics and holding steady can be very useful in such times.

Researched and authored by Priyansh SingalLinkedIn

Reviewed and Edited by Aditya SalunkeLinkedIn

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