According to Market Realist’s senior financials analyst:
As the S&P 500 index approaches new highs not seen since 2007, the current market’s P/E is some 2 multiple points lower than in ’07 which means that stocks are not as expensive despite being close to making new highs. In concert with this more favorable valuation currently for stocks, we point out there is still ample cash on the sidelines that could be invested which could fuel even further gains for equities.
As the stock market approaches the all-time high for the S&P 500 of 1,565 which was hit on October 10th, 2007, we note that the current valuation of the S&P 500 in early 2013 is substantially cheaper than that high level made in ’07. This could mean further gains for stocks as investors continue to adjust their asset allocation. The current day’s market level of 1,507 represents $108 in all S&P 500′s company’s earnings per share (EPS) resulting in a price to earning’s ratio of just 13.9x. This $108 in EPS for the index currently is a much improved number from the earnings level expected in 2007 which was only $95 per share. This valued the market at 16.5x earnings at the time in 2007, or over 2 multiple points higher than the current valuation now.
November 6, 2011: It has been almost 4 years since the United States and the entire Western World has been mired in this recessionary state. What has happened should not be a surprise to anyone. After scrambling for an ever higher quality of life, sending labor-intensive industries overseas, and losing more than 2.5 million manufacturing jobs and more than 850,000 professional service and information sector jobs to outsourcing, we foolishly blame our government and the top 1% of our earning population for our hardships. Most Americans lack the skills and motivation to innovate, and are fit to work only in commoditized industries, yet most of our commoditized industries have been sent overseas. The government has unsuccessfully spent trillions on the economy to lessen market volatility, to reassure pensioners, to bolster bank and corporate balance sheets, and to create jobs. Over the past 10 years, spending growth for prisons has risen at a rate 6x the rate of spending on education because this society simply does not value education as much as it should. The truth of the matter is, we are all to blame. After inflating real estate and securities prices through leverage, after fighting senseless wars in pursuit of oil when we have enough natural gas reserves to last 200 years, and after allowing an entire generation of our citizens to lose their values of hard work and integrity, we ALL are to blame.
Instead of pushing our children to embrace globalization, we have allowed them to grow up isolated from the rest of the world. Instead of encouraging them to be productive and to earn their own keep from a young age, we have allowed them to spend hours watching brainless television and to lose themselves in drugs and alcoholism in communities where families aren’t the norm and divorce rates are greater than 70%. Instead of building secure homes, we have a bred a completely confused generation just asking to be taken advantage of by the rest of the world.
We need to OCCUPY MAIN ST.; we need to restructure America, the American lifestyle, and the American mind before it’s too late. We need to instill passion for innovation and entrepreneurship, we need to teach our children practical skills and make sure that they are proficient in math and science, we need to encourage competition, and we need to instill the values of hard work and integrity into our youth so they can grow up to be proud and self-sufficient. No able bodied person should feel entitled to anything material in life without providing value or giving back to society.
Today, there are 45 million Americans on food stamps.
The number of very poor Americans (those at less than 50% of the official poverty level) has risen to 6.7%, or to 20.5 million. This is the highest percentage of the population since 1993. At least 2.2 million more Americans, a 30% rise since 2000, live in neighborhoods where the poverty rate is 40% or higher. Last year, 2.6 million more Americans descended into poverty, which was the largest increase since 1959. In 2000, 11.3% of all Americans were living in poverty; today 15.1% of Americans are living in poverty. The poverty rate for children living in the U.S. has increased to 22%. There are 314 counties in the U.S. where at least 30% of the children are facing food insecurity. More than 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry. In 2010, 42% of all single mothers in the U.S. were on food stamps. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid. One out of every six Americans is enrolled in at least one government anti-poverty program. I agree that we should help the poor and that compassion is a virtue, but shouldn’t these people help themselves as well? What specifically has caused their plight? Is only the government to blame? Are only the rich to blame? No, of course not.
Inflation adjusted wages have not grown since 1999, the S&P 500 is at 1998 levels, and real estate prices are at 2002 levels. It is up to us to realize what caused the “lost decade” and avoid a “lost century.”
Why has this happened? By the 1970s, the average American was 20x richer than the average Chinese person. Today, it is only 5x. The Western world rose to power because “they had laws and rules invented by reason.” Our institutions, our basic freedoms and property rights, our discipline, and our motivation to work hard created $130 trillion of wealth in the Western World. Unfortunately, we have lost our work ethic and our intellectual drive. The average Korean works 1,000 hours more per year than the average German. The Chinese soon will have filed more intellectual property patents than the Germans. This is the END of the great divergence between the West and the East. There is little that differentiates us from the rest in a world that is being forced to understand the idea of resource scarcity more than ever before.
In 1776, Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, explained how the East lagged behind because it lacked capitalism and property laws. Niall Ferguson explains how in addition to this, Competition, Applied Science, Property Rights, Modern Medicine, the Consumer Society, and Work Ethic propelled the West into prosperity:
This video link by Niall Ferguson shows why the Western world may lag behind as emerging market nations continue to gain in global wealth.
I am sick and tired of watching Occupy Wall Street protests. Stupidity should not be tolerated; we should educate the rest and Occupy Main Street. I asked a protester two weeks ago why he was protesting, and he could not give me a straight answer. His parents unfortunately didn’t teach him the values of hard work and self respect. It reminds me of the guy in this video asking for “millionaires & billionaires” to pay for his college tuition: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrPGoPFRUdc&feature=share[/youtube]
Contrast that young man with this young Asian immigrant, who hasn’t been able to set up his business properly in 2 weeks because of the protesters blocking access to his food cart:
Investment bank earnings estimates are truly bullish for 2011. Applying a 16x-18x multiple to these forward earnings brings you to S&P levels unseen since 2007. Unfortunately, something not included in these estimates is that for every $10 crude oil increases, S&P earnings fall by $3. This does not even factor in the fall in consumer confidence when citizens across the globe realize that they are soon going to pay $200 to fill up a mid-sized sedan, once QE3 is unveiled and Middle Eastern governments are overthrown once and for all. After all this is done for, oil could easily reach $130+ on a supply disruption in Saudi Arabia.
Of course, BofA’s Bianco will not discuss this. Neither will the analysts at Barclays, who just revised their S&P 500 earnings estimates up from 1,420 to 1,450.
Please view LA’s blog entry to see the S&P earning’s table below.
After closing three strong years of performance (2008 – 2.5%, 2009 – 36.5%, 2010 – 15.6%), Greenstone shares its outlook for 2011, as the year of “dividend chasing.” 2010 was certainly a year of “credit chasing,” where all funds searched for yield in high yield bonds, leveraged loans, and REITs. About 80% of the Greenstone portfolio is investing in traditional deep value securities, and 20% is invested in “special situations.” The last bullet point in Greenstone’s themes is that historically, “economies with the highest growth produce the lowest stock returns by an immense margin (yes, you read that right). In fact, stocks in countries with the highest economic growth have earned an annual average return of 6%; those in the slowest-growing nations have gained an average of 12% annually (source: Credit Suisse Global Returns Yearbook). This could be especially true in 2011, where equity investors in emerging markets are fighting policymakers.”
Here are Greenstone’s selected themes for 2011:
• We still like equities, particularly in the U.S. While they currently seem short-term overbought, and a technical correction is possible, we still see the most value in this area, especially when we consider the alternatives.
• In reviewing our letters from early last year, we talked about 2010 being the “Year of the Yield Chaser” in the credit space. We cut the majority of our credit exposure in Q1 and Q2 of 2010 because of what we thought was limited further upside appreciation potential. We can see 2011 being the “Year of the Dividend Chaser”.
• Offshore deepwater drilling is the last bastion for hydrocarbon discovery. We think a lot of “first time” emerging market demand characteristics and higher oil prices will lead to increased deepwater programs by the IOCs and NOCs. We have a handful of positions that give us exposure to this area.
• We would consider shorting natural gas companies because of the supply/demand dynamics and high valuations. We could see a scenario where the contrarian call is to go long physical natural gas because 1) it’s unloved and 2) the historical ratio between gas and oil prices is creating the perception that gas might be a buy. However, even with increasing demand for natural gas expected in the U.S. this year, we still have a tremendous overabundance of supply. We’re keeping an eye on high multiple natural gas companies and MLP’s that derive a generous amount of “other income” from hedging programs that are set to roll off.
• The M&A space is one that, for various reasons, we see doing well going forward. This primarily derives from the cash reserves on S&P 500 company balance sheets, which are at the highest level in ten years (currently over $1.2 trillion). This is almost 50% more than the $825 billion held in cash in September 2008. Information technology is the leading sector with cash reserves. With a near 0% interest rate environment, how long can companies hold so much cash? VC’s and Private Equity have not had a genuine chance to monetize their portfolios for 2-3 years now, and we believe they will search out the cash rich/public company exit option. We currently have 5+ names in the portfolio that we believe could benefit from such a trend.
• This year could finally be the year where companies have the ability to pass through their increased input costs to consumers. This would result in inflation showing up in the U.S., despite what the CPI is saying.
• Along with middle of the road valuations, allocation shifts could be a boom for the equity market in 2011. It is interesting to hear people like Byron Wein say that “Institutional portfolios have to have more of their money invested in places like China, India, and Latin America,” essentially saying that developing countries are generating a majority of the world’s growth, and institutional portfolios should have exposure to these markets. Mr. Wein recommends large conventional institutions substantially increase their allocations to hedge funds and emerging markets.
• European and municipal debt issues will once again provide buying opportunities when the markets turns south on these worries. With municipal budgets due in early June, expect more movement in and around this time frame. We have taken advantage of market gyrations that these events have previously offered, and would look to do so again.
• The dramatic equity rally from the lows at the end of June occurred almost entirely with net outflows from domestic equity funds, and net inflows into domestic fixed income funds. Late in the fourth quarter, this dynamic switched for the first time in a long while, with inflows into equities and outflows from bond funds. If this trend continues, which it appears that it might, even more fuel could be added to the recent stock market rally.
• Even in light of the money flows just mentioned, we don’t expect John Q. Public will come charging back into the market any time soon. We are wary, however, about the potential shift of pensions and endowments (who manage John Q. Public’s money) into equity markets. Essentially, there are way too many underperforming endowments (relative to their liabilities), and they may be forced to chase returns in order to meet their obligations.
• In contrast to the Byron Wein bullet point above, Elroy Dimson of the London Business School has decades of compelling data from 50+ countries to support the view that high economic growth in emerging markets doesn’t ensure high stock returns. His book, ‘Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns’, along with several other studies, have underlying evidence that economies with the highest growth produce the lowest stock returns by an immense margin (yes, you read that right). In fact, stocks in countries with the highest economic growth have earned an annual average return of 6%; those in the slowest-growing nations have gained an average of 12% annually (source: Credit Suisse Global Returns Yearbook). This could be especially true in 2011, where equity investors in emerging markets are fighting policymakers (who are trying to cool off overheated economies with monetary policy, etc), while developed markets are receiving tailwinds from policymakers (who are aggressively trying to lift the prices for risk assets). While many are clamoring for additional exposure to emerging markets, we believe the best risk/reward is to continue to find value in developed markets like the United States.