Estimating Future Stock Returns, December 2020 Update

Image Credit: Aleph Blog || Running on empty, running dry… what will happen when obligations can’t be met?

Welcome to Blunderland, boys, and girls. At the end of the fourth quarter, the S&P 500 was priced to return 1.29%/yr for the next ten years, with no adjustment for inflation. You might say, “But David, you’ve reported levels that low in the past, and you were concerned, but you never said ‘Blunderland.’”

True, but the market has rallied further since the end of the quarter, and the level of the S&P 500 now is priced to return 0.54%/yr for the next ten years, with no adjustment for inflation. That’s in the 98th percentile of valuations. Another reason I didn’t say ‘Blunderland’ in the past was that we did not have a situation before where the only values comparable came from core of the dot-com bubble. Thus, welcome to Blunderland.

Now, the valuation levels of the Blunderland era lasted for 2 years and 3 months, from the beginning of the fourth quarter of 1998 to the end of the fourth quarter of 2000. It was a period where monetary policy was extremely loose, before tightening enough to send the market into a tailspin, even as many claimed that interest rates have no effect on growth stocks.

Okay, I’m done imitating my last article on the topic. We are in the midst of a full-fledged mania. What is different no versus the dot-com bubble was that value only took off as the market began to implode. At present, value is outperforming even as valuations are at nosebleed levels. And for any who care, you would be better off buying a 10-year Treasury Note than buying the S&P 500 at present. There is an alternative… to lose less in purchasing power terms.

Of course, you could do what I did in mid-2000, and what I am doing now… own a bunch of cheap stocks that have been neglected over the last ten years, and hold them through the coming disaster. Many of them are cyclicals so they like inflation. Others are life insurers — they want long-term interest rates to rise.

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Disclaimer: David Merkel is an investment professional, and like every investment professional, he makes mistakes. David encourages you to do your own independent "due diligence" on ...

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