Posts tagged ‘Super Committee’

The Rule of 20 Can Make You Plenty

There is an endless debate over whether the equity markets are overvalued or undervalued, and at some point the discussion eventually transitions to what the market’s appropriate P/E (Price-Earnings) level should be. There are several standard definitions used for P/Es, but typically a 12-month trailing earnings, 12-month forward earnings (using earnings forecasts), and multi-year average earnings (e.g., Shiller 10-year inflation adjusted P/E – see Foggy P/E Rearview Mirror) are used in the calculations. Don Hays at Hays Advisory (www.haysadvisory.com) provides an excellent 30+ year view of the historical P/E ratio on a forward basis (see chart below).

Blue Line: Forward PE - Red Line: Implied Equilibrium PE (Hays Advisory)

If you listen to Peter Lynch, investor extraordinaire, his “Rule of 20” states a market equilibrium P/E ratio should equal 20 minus the inflation rate. This rule would imply an equilibrium P/E ratio of approximately 18x times earnings when the current 2011 P/E multiple implies a value slightly above 11x times earnings. The bears may claim victory if the earnings denominator collapses, but if earnings, on the contrary, continue coming in better than expected, then the sun might break through the clouds in the form of significant price appreciation.

Just because prices have been chopped in half, doesn’t mean they can’t go lower. From 1966 – 1982 the Dow Jones Industrial index traded at around 800 and P/E multiples contracted to single digits. That rubber band eventually snapped and the index catapulted 17-fold from about 800 to almost 14,000 in 25 years. Even though equities have struggled at the start of this century, a few things have changed from the market lows of 30 years ago. For starters, we have not hit an inflation rate of 13% or a Federal Funds rate of 20% (~3.5% and 0% today, respectively), so we have some headroom before the single digit P/E apocalypse descends upon us.

Fed Model Implies Equity Throttle

Hays Advisory exhibits another key valuation measurement of the equity market (the so-called “Fed Model”), which compares the Treasury yield of the 10-year Note with the earnings yield of stocks  (see chart below).

Blue Line: 10-Yr Treasury - Red Line: Forward PE (Hays Advisory)

Regardless of your perspective, the divergence will eventually take care of it in one of three ways:

1.) Bond prices collapse, and Treasury yields spike up to catch up with equity yields.

2.) Forward earnings collapse (e.g., global recession/depression), and equity yields plummet down to the low Treasury yield levels.

AND/OR

3.) Stock prices catapult higher (lower earnings yield) to converge.

At the end of the day, money goes where it is treated best, and at least today, bonds are expected to  treat investors substantially worse than the unfaithful treatment of Demi Moore by Ashton Kutcher. The Super Committee may not have its act together, and Europe is a mess, but the significant earnings yield of the equity markets are factoring in a great deal of pessimism.

The holidays are rapidly approaching. If for some reason the auspice of gifts is looking scarce, then review the Fed Model and Rule of 20, these techniques may make you plenty.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

November 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm 5 comments

Dominoes, Deleveraging, and Justin Bieber

Despite significant 2011 estimated corporate profit growth (+17% S&P 500) and a sharp rebound in the markets since early October (+18% since the lows), investors remain scared of their own shadows. Even with trembling trillions in cash on the sidelines, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up +5.0% for the year (+11% in 2010), and that excludes dividends. Not too shabby, if you think about the trillions melting away to inflation in CDs, savings accounts, and cash. With capital panicking into 10-year Treasuries, hovering near record lows of 2%, it should be no surprise to anyone that fears of a Greek domino toppling Italy, the eurozone, and the global economy have sapped confidence and retarded economic growth.

Deleveraging is a painful process, and U.S. consumers and corporations have experienced this first hand since the financial crisis of 2008 gained a full head of steam. Sure, housing has not recovered, and many domestic banks continue to chew threw a slew of foreclosures and underwater loan modifications. However, our European friends are now going through the same joyful process with their banks that we went through in 2008-2009. Certainly, when it comes to the government arena, the U.S. has only just begun to scratch the deleveraging surface. Fortunately, we will get a fresh update of how we’re doing in this department, come November 23rd, when the Congressional “Super Committee” will update us on $1.2 trillion+ in expected 10-year debt reductions.

Death by Dominoes?

Is now the time to stock your cave with a survival kit, gun, and gold? I’m going to go out on a limb and say we may see some more volatility surrounding the European PIIGS debt hangover (Portugal/Italy/Ireland/Greece/Spain) before normality returns, but Greece defaulting and/or exiting the euro does not mean the world is coming to an end. At the end of the day, despite legal ambiguity, the ECB (European Central Bank) will come to the rescue and steal a page from Ben Bernanke’s quantitative easing printing press playbook (see European Deadbeat Cousin).

Greece isn’t the first country to be attacked by bond vigilantes who push  borrowing costs up or the first country to suffer an economic collapse. Memories are short, but it was not too long ago that a hedge fund on ice called Iceland experienced a massive economic collapse. It wasn’t pretty – Iceland’s three largest banks suffered $100 billion in losses (vs. a $13 billion GDP); Iceland’s stock market collapsed 95%; Iceland’s currency (krona) dropped 50% in a week. The country is already on the comeback trail. Currently, unemployment (@ 6.8%) in Iceland is significantly less than the U.S. (@ 9.0%), and Iceland’s economy is expanding +2.5%, with another +2.5% growth rate forecasted by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in 2012.

Iceland used a formula of austerity and deleveraging, similar in some fashions to Ireland, which also has seen a dramatic -15% decrease in its sovereign debt borrowing costs (see chart below).

Source: Bloomberg.com

OK, sure, Iceland and Ireland are small potatoes (no pun intended), so how realistic is comparing these small countries’ problems to the massive $2.6 trillion in Italian sovereign debt that bearish investors expect to imminently implode? If these countries aren’t credibly large enough, then why not take a peek at Japan, which was the universe’s second largest economy in 1989. Since then, this South Pacific economic behemoth has experienced an unprecedented depression that has lasted longer than two decades, and seen the value of its stock market decline by -78% (from 38,916 to 8,514). Over that same timeframe, the U.S. economy has seen its economy grow from roughly $5.5 trillion to $15.2 trillion.

There’s no question in mind, if Greece exits the euro, financial markets will fall in the short-run, but if you believe the following…

1.) The world is NOT going to end.

2.) 2012 S&P profits are NOT declining to $65.

AND/OR

3.) Justin Bieber will NOT run and overtake Mitt Romney as the leading Republican candidate

…then I believe the financial markets are poised to move in a more constructive direction. Perhaps I am a bit too Pollyannaish, but as I decide if this is truly the case, I think I’ll go play a game of dominoes.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

November 12, 2011 at 6:59 pm 1 comment

Fear & Greed Occupy Wall Street in October

Excerpt from Free November Sidoxia Monthly Newsletter (Subscribe on right-side of page)

Fear and frustration dominated investor psyches during August and September as backlash from political gridlock in the U.S. and worries of European contagion dominated action in volatile investment portfolios. Elevated 9.1% unemployment and a sluggish recovery in the U.S. also led populist Occupy Wall Street protesters to flood our nation’s streets, blaming the bankers and the wealthy as the cause for personal misfortunes and the widening gap between rich and poor. However, in the face of the palpable pessimism, economic Halloween treats and greedy corporate profits scared away bearish naysayers like invisible ghosts during the month of October.

While many investors stayed home for Halloween in the supposed comfort of their inflation-losing savings accounts and bonds, those investors choosing to brave the chilling elements in the frightening equity markets were handsomely rewarded. Stockholders tasted the sweet pleasure of a +11% October return in the S&P 500 index, the largest monthly advance in 20 years.

Of course, as I always advise, investors should not load themselves to the gills in stocks just to chase performance. Rather, investors should construct a diversified portfolio designed to meet one’s objectives, constraints, risk tolerance, and liquidity needs. Within that context, a portfolio should also periodically rebalance by selling pricey investments (i.e., Treasuries) and redeploy those proceeds into unloved investments (i.e., equities).

Glass Half Full


There is never a shortage of reasons to be fearful and a one-month rally in equities is not reason enough to blindly pile on risk, but there are plenty of  reasons to counter the endless pessimism pornography peddled by media outlets on a continuous basis. Here are some of the “half-full” reasons:

  • Euro Plan in Place: After months of conflicting headlines, European leaders reached an agreement to increase the European Union’s bailout fund to one trillion euros ($1.4 trillion) and negotiated a -50% debt reduction deal with Greek bondholders. In addition, European officials agreed on a plan to increase bank reserves by 106 billion euros to support potential bank losses due to European debt defaults. This plan is not a silver bullet, but it is a start.
  • Bulging Corporate Profits: With the majority of S&P 500 companies now having reported their actual third quarter results, profit growth is estimated to exceed +16% for the three month period ending in September. Expectations for fourth quarter earnings are currently forecasted to top a respectable +11% growth rate (Data from Thomson Reuters).
  • Tortoise-Like Growth Continues: Even though it’s Halloween, the double-dip recession boogeyman is still hiding. U.S. economic growth actually accelerated its growth to +2.5% in the third quarter on a year-over-year basis, up from +1.3% last quarter. The growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was primarily driven by consumer and business spending.
  • Jobs Still on the Rise: The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, but offsetting the ongoing decline in government jobs has been a 19 consecutive month spurt in private job creation activity, resulting in +2.6 million jobs being added to the economy over the period. This doesn’t make up for the 8 million+ jobs lost during the 2008-2009 recession, but the economy is moving in the right direction.
  • Consumers Opening Wallet: Consumers can be like cockroaches in that they are difficult to kill off when it comes to spending. Consumers whipped out their wallets in September as retail sales advanced at a brisk +7.9% pace (+7.8% excluding auto sales).
  • Dividends on the Rise: While nervous Nellies park money in money losing cash and Treasuries (on an inflation-adjusted basis), corporations flush with cash are increasing dividends at a rapid clip. According to Standard & Poor’s rating agency, dividend increases rose over +17% during the third quarter of 2011. As of October 25th, the indicated dividend for the S&P stood at a decent +2.20% rate.

I am fully aware that equity investors are not out of the woods yet, as the European debt crisis has not been resolved, and the structural deficit/debt issues we face in the U.S. still have a long way to go before becoming disentangled. As a matter of fact, fear is building as we approach the looming deficit reduction Super Committee resolution (or lack thereof) later this month – I can hardly wait. If a $1.5 trillion bipartisan debt reduction agreement can’t be reached, some bored Occupy Wall Street protesters can shift priorities and take a tour bus to Washington D.C. to demonstrate. Regardless of the potential grand European or Washington debt plans that may or may not transpire, observers can rest assured fear and greed are two emotions that will remain alive and well when it comes to Wall Street and “Main Street” portfolios.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

October 31, 2011 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment


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