The only other times in our history when stock prices have been this high relative to earnings, a horrifying stock market crash has always followed. Will things be different for us this time? We shall see, but without a doubt this is what a pre-crash market looks like. This current bubble has been based on irrational euphoria that has been fueled by relentless central bank intervention, but now global central banks are removing the artificial life support in unison. Meanwhile, the real economy continues to stumble along very unevenly. This is the longest that the U.S. has ever gone without a year in which the economy grew by at least 3 percent, and many believe that the next recession is very close. Stock prices cannot stay completely disconnected from economic reality forever, and once the bubble bursts the pain is going to be unlike anything that we have ever seen before.
If you think that these ridiculously absurd stock prices are sustainable, there is something that I would like for you to consider. The only times in our history when the cyclically-adjusted return on stocks has been lower, a nightmarish stock market crash happened soon thereafter…
The Nobel-Laureate, Robert Shiller, developed the cyclically-adjusted price/earnings ratio, the so-called CAPE, to assess whether stocks are likely to be over- or under-valued. It is possible to invert this measure to obtain a cyclically-adjusted earnings yield which allows one to measure prospective real returns. If one does this, the answer for the US is that the cyclically-adjusted return is now down to 3.4 percent. The only times it has been still lower were in 1929 and between 1997 and 2001, the two biggest stock market bubbles since 1880. We know now what happened then. Is it going to be different this time?
Since the market bottomed out in early 2009, the S&P 500 has been on a historic run. If this rally had been based on a booming economy that would be one thing, but the truth is that the U.S. economy has not seen 3 percent yearly growth since the middle of the Bush administration. Instead, this insane bubble has been almost entirely fueled by central bank manipulation, and now that manipulation is being dramatically scaled back.
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