Eighteen months ago, in early March of 2009, the stock market reached its low point with the S&P 500 at 667. Currently it is 1,045, + 57%. Then the economy was sinking; now it’s growing. Jobs were being lost, now they are being created. Inflation is very low. Interest rates are at an all time low. Corporate profits are rising rapidly; corporate cash accumulation exceeds $1.8 trillion!
Why is everyone so worried? Higher taxes coming on a weak economy? Maybe, maybe not. They have been much higher before. Weak housing? With 4,000,000 young Americans turning 30 each year, how long does anyone really think new housing starts will stay below 500,000 with 4.5% mortgage rates available? Low job creation? Expectations are for 1,000,000 – 1,500,000 more jobs this year and more than that next year. True, 1,200,000 more only holds the unemployment rate level, but at least jobs are being created!
Everyone worries about a surprise decline, and there is always some new worry that could send it down. Avian flu? Worried about that pandemic now? Probably not. Greece? Worried about that now? Probably not. China’s growth rate could decline from 10% to 9%. Is that really something to worry about? The Taliban. Criminal thugs. From 1910 – 1950 the world suffered WWI with 40,000,000 deaths and then WWII with 60,000,000. Allied deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are very low in comparison, numbering less than 10,000. Of course we all wish it was -0-; my son Eric is a 2nd lieutenant in the Army and will probably be in Afghanistan next year. Sadly, there will be more wars and incursions to come. Thankfully, for the first time in world history there is no super power confrontation. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, Japan and the USA are all pretty friendly and economically cooperative! Each has too much to lose by going to war with another.
Instead of a surprise decline, how about a surprise and massive advance? It happened 18 months ago, now + 57% from that level. Estimates for earnings on the S&P 500 for 2011 are $93. That puts the Price Earnings Ratio (P/E) at 11.2. The average over the last 100 years is 15-16, with a low of 10 and a high of 20. When do we get a 20 P/E? When inflation is low, interest rates are low, and corporate profits and the economy are growing. Check, check, check and check. The overall level of GDP will likely be at an all time high in the first quarter of 2011.
The 3rd year of the Presidential cycle has historically been the best year of the four year cycle, and has been positive every time all the way back to 1939, averaging + 21.6%. For the 30 years from 1926 – 1955, including the Great Depression, WWII and the Korean War, the compounded annual return on large stocks was + 10.2%, on small stocks was +10%. Over the last 30 years, even with the terrible 2000 – 2009 decade, annual compounded returns on large stocks were +11.2% and +12.3% on small stocks. You could buy a 30 year Treasury bond today with a 3.65% yield. But this is likely to be a very poor investment compared to alternatives.
Where will the market be in early March of 2012, 18 months from now? We’re mindful that it could easily go down before it goes up, but over the full 18 months we at Parsec are going to predict up. Maybe WAY up. A 15 P/E on $105 of S&P 500 earnings in 2012 would be 1,575 on the S&P 500, + 51% from here. Markets fluctuate, but historically over the longer term they go WAY up. + 51% over the next 18 months? It may appear unlikely right now, but more than that happened over the last 18 months. We’ll keep you posted.
Bart Boyer, CFP
Chairman and CEO