Stock Markets & Time


Is it time for the US stock market to fall? 

einstein

Albert Einstein on time and money:

Albert Einstein helped humanity understand that time is relative.  He also had something to say about time and money when he said this about compound interest.

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” – Albert Einstein

Einstein had a good point about compound interest but never considered zero and negative interest.  Compound returns over 30 or 40 years at zero return are still zero!  This fact has left us in stock value territory that is really unknown.

So let’s ask the question again…. Is it time for the US stock market to fall?

Maybe the market will rise.  Maybe it will fall.  No one knows, so let’s take time and look at stock market timing, the value of time in the market and most important, the value of time in our lives.

The Wall Street Journal article, “This Market Can’t Go on Much Longer” (1) seems to think the market is headed for a crash.

The article says:  The stock market has surged 20% since the election as much has gone right and little wrong. That hardly ever lasts.  The stock market has surged 20% since the election, making it expensive by almost any measure. The drivers of the rally are well-known: Strong corporate earnings, solid global growth, central bank stimulus and a relatively stable global geopolitical environment. These positives have made the market one of the calmest of all time, which has given investors more confidence and further boosted stocks.

Can those factors continue? In most cases-no, though the timing and size of the next shift is impossible to know. But these trends are interconnected and have reinforced one another on the way up. A crack in one could have an outsize impact on the rest. U.S. stocks have been the best performing asset class in the world for three years running, returning an average of nearly 16% annually.  This year is on track to top 20%.  To get here, lot of things have gone right and almost nothing wrong.  That hardly ever lasts.

This means it is time to get out of the US stock market.  Right?

Wait a minute…

Another Wall Street Journal article one day later, “Are Stock Prices Dangerously High?” (2), tells a different tale.

This article says:  It Depends How You Look at It.  These three P/E measurements are alarming. So why hasn’t it mattered?

Hot-Stock Rally Tests the Patience of a Choosy Lot: Value Investors.  Value funds around the globe are on track to post their worst performance since before the financial crisis.  U.S. stocks have set record after record this year, pleasing investors who might have expected a post election slump.  However, have prices soared to levels that are too risky?

Today, the P/E for the stocks in the S&P 500 index is about 24, meaning investors pay $24 for every $1 in corporate earnings. That’s quite high compared with the historical average of about 15 or 16, but not so high compared with some periods of crisis in the past—more than 40 around the dot-com bubble and above 100 after the financial crisis broke. To return to average, prices would have to tumble or earnings would have to skyrocket.

Some experts note, however, that it isn’t unusual, or particularly risky,  for the P/E to be somewhat higher than average when interest rates and inflation are unusually low.

So is the market going to fall or not?

We are not asking the right question…

These Golden Rules of Investing show us why:

#1: There is always something we do not know.   The only certainty is that periods of high performance are followed by periods of low performance and vice versa.

#2:  Invest in inexpensive equities that are paying a reasonable return.  Expect 7% to 10% annual return in the stock market as a function of global nominal GDP growth and long term earnings’ growth plus risk premium.  To attain higher growth, you must either increase risk or trust luck.

#3: The short term process of buying and selling takes too much time.  This short term process leaves too little time to analyze and forecast.  Markets move short term based on emotion and are unpredictable.  Markets move long term based on value and are predictable.  Place a higher priority on numbers rather than good stories.  Make your routine repeatable, so good shares can be found again and again.

We have 24 hours a day, a limited commodity that erodes minute by minute.  How will we spend it?  Time is potentially the most important factor in our life, so it makes sense to a repeatable routine that finds good shares again and again and takes as little time as possible.

Value funds around the globe are on track to post their worst performance since before the financial crisis.

The only certainty is that periods of high performance are followed by periods of low performance and vice versa.

We have seen a period of high performance in the US market.  We have seen a period of low performance in good value stock markets.  It’s time to save time and invest in country ETFs of good value markets.

Gary

(1) www.wsj.com: This market can’t go on much longer

(2) www.wsj.com: Are stock prices dangerously high. It depends on how you look at it


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