Physicists say a “subcritical” system that’s waiting to “go critical” is in a “phase transition.” A system that is subcritical actually appears stable, but it is capable of wild instability based on a small change in initial conditions.
The critical state is when the process spins out of control, like a nuclear reactor melting down or a nuclear bomb exploding. The phase transition is just the passage from one state to another, as a system goes from subcritical to critical.
The signs are everywhere that the stock market is in a subcritical state with the potential to go critical and meltdown at any moment. The signs as elevated price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios, complacency, and seasonality — crashes have a habit of happening around this time of year.
The problem with a market meltdown is that it’s difficult to contain. It can spread rapidly. Likewise, there’s no guarantee that a stock market meltdown will be contained to stocks.