Sunday, April 02, 2017

How overvalued are stocks?

The bull market entered a new phase last year when it broke solidly above S&P 2,100 and bounced off that level after the election. The subsequent 10%+ rally is justified by accelerating economic and earnings growth, with Q1 expected to hit a 9% EPS advance, the highest since Q4 of 2011.

But with the trailing P/E multiple hitting nearly 22 times -- S&P 2350 / $108 EPS for 2016 = 21.75 -- many investors are looking for the end of the bull market based on valuation alone.

Given this pricey picture, it's a very good time to take a step back and get a read on just how over-valued the market might be.

Historically Speaking 

We all know about the great Nasdaq Tech Bubble of 1999. Just how far away from a fair value P/E of 15X were big cap stocks then? 

While the Nasdaq P/E was much higher, at the end of 1999 the S&P 500 flashed a trailing 12-month P/E multiple of over 29X. It had peaked even higher near 31X in July of that year. 

And for broader context, the last six bull market tops all saw the S&P 500 trailing P/E ratio hit an average peak of 30X earnings. I doubt we get that high again after the lessons learned in the two bear markets of the previous decade, but it's certainly still possible. 

Bottom line: Historically speaking, we aren't even close to a bubbly valuation peak that would have me concerned about the end of the bull market. Especially with 2-3% GDP growth, attractive interest rates, and the return of nearly 10% earnings growth.

-- Kevin Cook, Weekend Wisdom

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