Margin debt at NYSE member companies fell 37.6% for the year through November, down to $201.48 billion (see WSJ article). There is no doubt that some of this reduction came from forced margin call selling over the last few months. While rampant speculation may not reenter the markets anytime some, the reduction of speculative investments, along with past hedge and mutual fund redemption selling, is helping to clear out the excess in the market, allowing it to find a bottom and begin building a base.
January is often used as a bellwether for things to come in the markets, and the market action on the first trading day was encouraging - yet one day does not make a market. Nonetheless, January will certainly continue to generate interest as the confluence of a new year, a new president, a new congress, a new stimulus bill, and an unfolding credit crisis continue to intertwine in what will continue to generate some interesting times, not to mention opportunities in the market.