Is the Stock Market Starting to Blow Bubbles?

If you have planning to invest your money in the stock market, you need to read this carefully. It cannot be denied that every investment has its own risk. Today’s article gives an overview of the situation in the stock market today and the prediction about what will happen in the future.

Client meetings over the past year have been quite sanguine. Investments and assets are up. People seem to feel better about job security. The housing market is slowly recovering, and retirement projections look rosier. Strong stock market performance is good, in that it gets us closer to our goals; however, it can also breed a false sense of complacency.

Valuations are high and reaching points not seen since 2007, 1929, and by some metrics, even 2000.

Overvalued Stock Market

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Stock markets become overvalued when stock prices rise at a much faster rate than earnings, which is what has occurred for the past several years due to the belief that the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing policies will continue to force investors into stocks in order to get a decent return on their money; low-interest rates punish savers and cause them to seek yield by investing in increasingly speculative investments. But even members of the Federal Reserve are warning about frothy segments of the market as they tiptoe toward shutting off the quantitative easing spigot.

debt is increasingly being purchased on the basis of yield rather than the careful evaluation of repayment prospects. John Hussman Hussman Funds

The Cycles In Financial Markets

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It is important to remember that financial markets move in cycles, and just because this multiyear stock market advance has been rewarding, it does not mean that it can continue indefinitely. In fact, the longer it persists, the greater the chance of a severe correction.

One way to evaluate whether or not the market is expensive is to look at the current PE10 or CAPE ratio. This valuation method was developed by Robert Shiller from Yale, and it historically has been helpful in forecasting market crashes as well as future rates of return.

This article in the WSJ “Yes, Virginia, You Can Time the Market” explains that, although no one can time the market with precision, using the Shiller PE as a method to modify your stock exposure by overweighting or underweighting by up to 30 percentage points has resulted in stellar returns since 1926.

The Prediction of Bubbles

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It is a strategy, however, that requires patience. A high CAPE ratio can persist for years. It tends to have a better success rate for predicting 10-year future returns and is less accurate in predicting returns less than 5 years out. In fact, in 2000 it was over five years early in diagnosing an overvalued market. The article acknowledges that extreme market timing by moving all of your assets in and out of the market based on certain parameters is very difficult and not a recommended strategy. Using Shiller’s ratio, though, can provide some guidance in dialing down equities when markets are overvalued and dialing up exposure when markets are undervalued, thus protecting investors from large corrections and enhancing long-range returns.  See the chart to the left.

John Hussman has been warning about stock valuations for years as the Shiller PE, as well as his additional proprietary methods, indicate that returns over the next decade will be roughly 2%, before inflation. His weekly commentaries are a must-read.

He makes this powerful assertion in, Yes, This Is An Equity Bubble:

Make no mistake – this is an equity bubble, and a highly advanced one. On the most historically reliable measures, it is easily beyond 1972 and 1987, beyond 1929 and 2007, and is now within about 15% of the 2000 extreme. The main difference between the current episode and that of 2000 is that the 2000 bubble was strikingly obvious in technology, whereas the present one is diffused across all sectors in a way that makes valuations for most stocks actually worse than in 2000.

The question a rational and prudent investor should as himself is this, “ is it prudent for me to take additional risk in the stock market at this juncture, given such dismal future returns?” This is a particularly important consideration for those people who are looking to retire in the next 7-10 years, as well as those how have recently retired.

For more information on the Shiller PE and market valuations you may want to read the following:

Market Valuation Overview- Yet More Expensive

The Mystery of Lofty Market Valuations by Robert Shiller

Is the CAPE Ratio Good at Predicting Future Returns? (Yes) Is it Perfect? (No)

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