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Musk warns against margin debt on risk of market ‘mass panic’

Billionaire Elon Musk is warning against something he himself has done — borrowing against the value of securities one owns — because of the risk of “mass panic” in the stock market.

“I would really advise people not to have margin debt in a volatile stock market and you know, from a cash standpoint, keep powder dry,” Musk said in the podcast released Friday. “You can get some pretty extreme things happening in a down market.”

The Tesla Inc. chief executive officer put up billions of his own money when he purchased Twitter Inc. for $44 billion earlier this year and saddled the company with $13 billion of debt. Bloomberg News has reported that Musk’s bankers are considering replacing some of the high-interest debt he layered on Twitter with new margin loans backed by Tesla stock that he’d be personally responsible for re-paying.

He’s also disposed of nearly $40 billion of Tesla’s shares, a move that contributed to driving the stock to a two-year low. Following the latest sales, Musk again said this week he will stop selling shares, adding that the pause could last for two years or so.

The warning, at least the second made by Musk this month, is ironic given the billionaire has previously pledged his Tesla shares. As of December 2020, Musk had 92 million Tesla shares pledged as collateral, according to an SEC filing in April 2022.

During the podcast, Musk also reiterated his belief that the economy is overdue for a recession and that the slowdown could be similar to the scale seen in 2009.

“My best guess is that we have stormy times for a year to a year and a half, and then, dawn breaks roughly in Q2 2024, that’s my best guess,” Musk said. “Booms don’t last forever, but neither do recessions.” Bloomberg

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