December 28, 2010
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As always, John Hussman’s weekly market comment is a must read. In it he discusses what he sees as the driver of returns since QE2 was announced (essentially a transient psychological effect), the asset classes that have benefited and current valuation levels. All three areas are worthy of reading and further introspection but I will focus on the second. Read more of this post
November 21, 2010
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Last week, in his weekly market comment, John Hussman posted an interesting chart (see below) comparing the corporate profit to GDP ratio and the subsequent growth rate in corporate profits. I have previously posted on profit margins (see here and here) and will now further explore what profits margins at current levels imply about the next five years for the S&P 500 index.
But first a question: why is the current level of corporate profit margins so important?
When looking at the market through a P/E (Price divided by earnings) framework it becomes obvious that any price appreciation, by definition, must come from an expansion in the P/E multiple, an increase in earnings or both. Experts disagree on what, exactly cause an expansion or contraction in the P/E multiple but the general consensus is that it is due to the level of inflation, interest rates, investor sentiment or a combination of the three. Read more of this post
November 8, 2010
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Hussman’s weekly market comment is a must read. He does not mince words in arguing that QE is utterly misguided and Bernanke’s leadership at the Fed has bordered on criminal. Excerpts below (emphasis mine) but please read the entire comment.
Given that interest rates are already quite depressed, Bernanke seems to be grasping at straws in justifying QE2 on the basis further slight reductions in yields. As for Bernanke’s case for creating wealth effects via the stock market, one might look at this logic and conclude that while it may or may not be valid, the argument is at least the subject of reasonable debate. But that would not be true. Rather, these are undoubtedly among the most ignorant remarks ever made by a central banker.
We will continue this cycle until we catch on. The problem isn’t only that the Fed is treating the symptoms instead of the disease. Rather, by irresponsibly promoting reckless speculation, misallocation of capital, moral hazard (careless lending without repercussions), and illusory “wealth effects,” the Fed has become the disease.
Source: Hussman Funds
October 4, 2010
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John Hussman’s latest weekly market comment is, as always, a must read. The entire comment can be found here but I will share a few of my favorite quotes (emphasis is mine):
Still, with the S&P 500 at a Shiller P/E over 21, and our own measures indicating an estimated 10-year total return for the S&P 500 in the low 5% area, it is clear that investors have priced in a much more robust recovery than we are likely to observe. Our long-term total return estimates are consistent the historical norms based on Shiller P/Es – since 1940, Shiller P/E values above 21 have been associated with annual total returns for the S&P 500 averaging 5.3% over the following 7 years and 4.9% annually over the following decade.
In contrast, high dividend payouts (as a ratio of forward operating earnings) typically reflect temporarily depressed operating earnings, and short-term margin compression. Accordingly, elevated payouts tend to be followed by above average growth in operating earnings over the following decade. The tendency for dividend payouts to lead operating earnings growth is depicted below (see Long Term Evidence on the Fed Model and Forward Operating P/E Ratios for details on forward operating earnings prior to 1979). Suffice it to say that the low level of payouts today most likely reflects elevated and unsustainable operating margins.
To some extent, I view current market conditions as something of a “Ponzi game” in that valuations appear neither sustainable nor likely to produce acceptably high long-term returns, and speculators increasingly rely on finding a greater fool.
Hussman’s entire market comment is well worth reading.