Is The Stock Market Overvalued?

Stock Market Overvalued - Public DomainAre stocks overvalued?  By just about any measure that you could possibly name, stocks are at historically high prices right now.  From a technical standpoint, the stock market is more overvalued today than it was just prior to the last financial crisis.  The only two moments in U.S. history that even compare to our current state of affairs are the run up to the stock market crash of 1929 and the peak of the hysteria just before the dotcom bubble burst.  It is so obvious that stocks are in a bubble that even Janet Yellen has talked about it, but of course she will never admit that the Federal Reserve has played a key role in creating this bubble.  They say that hindsight is 20/20, but what is happening right in front of our eyes in 2015 is so obvious that everyone should be able to see it.  Just like with all other financial bubbles throughout our history, someday people will look back and talk about how stupid we all were.

Why can’t we ever learn from history?  We just keep on making the same mistakes over and over again.  And without a doubt, some of the smartest members of our society are trying to warn us about what is coming.  For example, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller has repeatedly tried to warn us that stocks are overvalued

I think that compared with history, US stocks are overvalued. One way to assess this is by looking at the CAPE (cyclically adjusted P/E) ratio that I created with John Campbell, now at Harvard, 25 years ago. The ratio is defined as the real stock price (using the S&P Composite Stock Price Index deflated by the CPI) divided by the ten-year average of real earnings per share. We have found this ratio to be a good predictor of subsequent stock market returns, especially over the long run. The CAPE ratio has recently been around 27, which is quite high by US historical standards. The only other times it has been that high or higher were in 1929, 2000, and 2007—all moments before market crashes.

But the CAPE ratio is not the only metric I watch. In my book Irrational Exuberance (3rd Ed., Princeton 2015) I discuss several metrics that help judge what’s going on in the market. These include my stock market confidence indices. One of the indicators in that series is based on a single question that I have asked individual and institutional investors over the years along the lines of, “Do you think the stock market is overvalued, undervalued, or about right?” Lately, what I call “valuation confidence” captured by this question has been on a downward trend, and for individual investors recently reached its lowest point since the stock market peak in 2000.

Other analysts prefer to use different valuation indicators than Shiller does.  But no matter which indicators you use, they all show that stocks are tremendously overvalued in mid-2015.  For instance, just consider the following chart.  It comes from Doug Short, and it shows the average of four of his favorite valuation indicators.  As you can see, there is only one other time in all of our history when stocks have been more overvalued than they are today according to the average of these four indicators…

Four Valuation Indicators - Doug Short

Another danger sign that many analysts are pointing to is the dramatic rise in margin debt that we have seen in recent years.  Investors are borrowing tremendous amounts of money to fund purchases of stock.  This is something that we witnessed during the dotcom bubble, it was something that we witnessed just prior to the financial collapse of 2008, and now it is happening again.  In fact, margin debt just surged to a brand new all-time record high.  Once again, the following chart comes from Doug Short

NYSE Margin Debt - Chart by Doug Short

All of this margin debt has helped drive stocks to ridiculous highs, but it can also serve to drive stock prices down very rapidly when the market turns.  This was noted by Henry Blodget of Business Insider in a recent editorial…

What is “margin debt”?

It’s the amount of money stock investors have collectively borrowed via traditional margin accounts to fund stock purchases.

In a bull market, the growth of margin debt serves as a turbocharger that helps drive stock prices higher.

As with a home mortgage, the more investors borrow, the more house or stock they can buy. So as margin debt grows, collective buying power grows. The borrowed money gets used to fund new stock purchases, which helps drives the prices of those stocks higher. The higher prices, in turn, allow traders to borrow more money to fund additional purchases. And so on.

It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.

The trouble is that it’s a self-reinforcing cycle on the way down, too.

If the overall U.S. economy was absolutely booming, these ultra-high stock prices would not be as much of a concern.  But the truth is that the financial markets have become completely divorced from economic reality.  Right now, corporate profits are actually falling and our exports are way down.  U.S. GDP shrunk during the first quarter, and there are a whole host of economic trouble signs on the horizon.  I am calling this a “recession within a recession“, and I believe that we are heading into another major economic downturn.

Unfortunately, our “leaders” are absolutely clueless about what is coming.  They assure us that everything is going to be just fine – just like they did back in 2008 before everything fell apart.  But the truth is that things are already so bad that even the big banks are sounding the alarm.  For instance, just consider the following words from Deutsche Bank

At issue is whether or not the Fed in particular but the market in general has properly understood the nature of the economic problem. The more we dig into this, the more we are afraid that they do not. So aside from a data revision tsunami, we would suggest that the Fed has the outlook not just horribly wrong, but completely misunderstood.

Ultimately, most people believe what they want to believe.

Our politicians want to believe that the economy is going to get better, and so do the bureaucrats over at the Federal Reserve.  The mainstream media wants to put a happy face on things, and they want all of us to continue to have faith in the system.

Unfortunately for them, the system is failing.  I truly do hope that this bubble can last for a few more months, but I don’t see it going on for much longer than that.

The greatest financial crisis in U.S. history is fast approaching, and it is going to be extraordinarily painful.

When it arrives, it is not just going to destroy faith in the system.  In the end, it is going to destroy the system altogether.

Is There Going To Be A Stock Market Crash In The Fall?

Is the stock market going to crash by the end of this year?  Are we on the verge of major financial chaos on a global scale? Well, this is the time of the year when investors start getting nervous.  We all remember what happened during the fall of 1929, the fall of 1987 and the fall of 2008.  However, it is important to keep in mind that we do not see a stock market crash in the fall of every year.  Some years the stock market cruises through the months of September, October, November and December without any problems whatsoever.  But this year conditions certainly seem to be right for a “perfect storm” to develop.  Technical indicators are screaming that a stock market decline is imminent and sources in the financial industry all over the world are warning that a massive crisis is on the way.  What you are about to read should alarm you.  But it is not a guarantee that anything will or will not happen.  When Ben Bernanke gives his speech at the Jackson Hole summit on Friday he could announce to the rest of the world that the Federal Reserve has decided to launch QE3 and that the Fed will be printing up trillions of new dollars.  If that happened global financial markets would leap for joy.  So it is always a dangerous thing when anyone out there tries to tell you that they can “guarantee” what is about to happen in the financial world.  There are just so many moving parts.  But if we do not see major intervention by the governments of the world or by global central banks a major financial crisis could rapidly develop this fall.  The conditions are certainly right for a stock market collapse, and we could easily see a repeat of what happened back in 2008.

The truth is that the second half of 2012 looks a little bit more like the second half of 2008 with each passing day.

Just check out what Bob Janjuah of Nomura Securities has been saying….

Based on the reasons set out earlier and also covered in my two prior notes, over the August to November period I am looking for the S&P500 to trade off down from around 1400 to 1100/1000 – in other words, I expect over the next four months to see global equity markets fall by 20% to 25% from current levels and to trade at or below the lows of 2011! US equity markets, along with parts of the EM spectrum, will I think underperform eurozone equity markets, where already very little hope resides.

Others are issuing similar warnings.  For example, the following is what a couple of Bank of America analysts said in a report the other day….

Our strategists see an unusually high number of macro catalysts over the next 3-6 months that could take markets lower. We expect economic growth to disappoint in the second half of the year in anticipation of the fiscal cliff. This would exacerbate any slowdown from the deepening recession in Europe and decelerating growth in emerging markets. There is also the ongoing tension in the Middle East, the potential for a US credit downgrade and accelerating downward analyst estimate revisions. To top it off, September is seasonally the weakest month of the year for stock price returns.

There has been an unusual amount of chatter in the financial world about the September to December time frame.

That could mean something or it could mean nothing.

But is is very interesting to watch what some top financial insiders are doing with their stocks right now.

Dennis Gartman, the publisher of the Gartman Leter, has dumped all of his stocks at this point.

As I have written about previously, George Soros has dumped all of his stock in banking giants JP Morgan, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Are they just being paranoid?

Or do they know something that we do not?

If you are looking for the next “Lehman Brothers moment” in the United States, you might want to watch Morgan Stanley.  Morgan Stanley was heavily involved in the Facebook IPO disaster, earlier this year their credit rating was downgraded, and now there are persistent rumors that Morgan Stanley is in big trouble and that it will be allowed to fail.  You can check out some of these rumors for yourself here, here and here.

But of course as I have said all along the center of the coming crisis is going to be in Europe, and many analysts agree with me.  For example, the following is what the chairman of Casey Research, Doug Casey, had to say during a recent interview….

Europe is a full cycle ahead of the U.S. Its governments and its banks are both bankrupt. It’s a couple of drunks standing on the street corner holding each other up at this point. Europe is in much worse shape than the U.S. It’s highly regulated, highly taxed and much more socially unstable.

Europe is going to be the epicenter of the coming storm. Japan is waiting in the wings, as is China. This is going to be a worldwide phenomenon. Of course, the U.S. will be in it, too. We’re going to see this all over the world.

Much of southern Europe is already experiencing depression-like conditions.  Unemployment in both Greece and Spain is well above 20 percent and both economies are steadily shrinking.

Money is flowing out of Spanish banks at an unprecedented rate right now.  Just take a look at these charts.  The only thing that is going to keep the Spanish banking system from totally collapsing is outside intervention.

But the truth is that all of Europe is in big trouble.  Even German companies are slashing job right now. For example, check out what Siemens is up to….

German engineering conglomerate Siemens (SIEGn.DE) is in early internal talks to cut thousands of jobs in response to a weakening economy, particularly in Europe, a German newspaper reported.

Decisions could be made in October or November, according to daily Boersen-Zeitung, which did not specify its sources.

A Siemens spokesman declined to comment.

We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and at some point that bubble is going to burst in a very messy way.

It is vital that people understand that our system is not even close to sustainable.

Knowing exactly when it will collapse is not nearly as important as understanding that a collapse is absolutely inevitable.

I think what former World Bank economist Richard Duncan had to say recently is very helpful….

“The explosion in credit drove economic growth in the U.S. and around the world, and now that’s the only thing that’s keeping us from collapsing in a debt/deflation spiral,” he said. “[What] I think everybody needs to understand is that the kind of economy that we have now, it’s not capitalism. It has very little in common with capitalism. Capitalism was an economic system in which the government played very little role …. Under capitalism, gold was money and the government had nothing to do with it. Now the central bank creates the money and manipulates its value.”

And he is very right.

We aren’t seeing a failure of capitalism.

What we are witnessing is the failure of debt-based central banking.

And if you think that the global elite are not aware of what is happening then you have not been paying attention.

This summer the global elite have been preparing very hard.  Either they are getting very paranoid or they know things that we do not.

If you want to catch up on what the global elite have been up to recently, check out these three articles that I have published previously….

-“Are The Government And The Big Banks Quietly Preparing For An Imminent Financial Collapse?

-“Startling Evidence That Central Banks And Wall Street Insiders Are Rapidly Preparing For Something BIG

-“Jacob Rothschild, John Paulson And George Soros Are All Betting That Financial Disaster Is Coming

If you are waiting for the nightly news to tell you what to do, then you have not learned anything.

Did anyone in the mainstream media warn you about what was about to happen back in 2008?

Of course not.

The “authorities” insisted that everything was going to be just fine and many average Americans were absolutely wiped out.

So don’t expect someone to come along and nicely inform you that your retirement savings are about to be absolutely devastated.

In this day and age it is absolutely critical for people to learn to think for themselves.

Barack Obama is not going to save you.

Mitt Romney is not going to save you.

The U.S. Congress is not going to save you.  They are too busy living the high life at taxpayer expense.

The system is not looking out for you.  Nobody is really going to care if your financial planning gets turned upside down.  This is a cold, cruel world and you need to understand how the game is played.  The financial insiders are looking out for themselves and most of them usually are able to avoid financial disaster.

Average folks like you and I are normally not so fortunate.

There are lots of warning signs that indicate that this fall could be a very turbulent time for global financial markets.

Ignore them at your own peril.

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