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Talk of a Stock Market Bubble is Baloney
SERVO WEALTH ^ | 11/26/2013 | Eric D. Nelson, CFA

Posted on 11/27/2013 7:28:07 AM PST by SeekAndFind

In case you haven’t noticed, there has been a surge in market forecasts lately claiming that the recent run up in prices has resulted in a stock “bubble”. There is no universal definition of what actually constitutes a bubble, so we’ll settle for the vague description of “a condition where market participants drive stock prices well above their value in relation to some system of stock valuation.” The fear of a bubble, of course, is that when the euphoria ends, prices will fall to more pedestrian levels resulting in a significant loss for existing investors who don’t bail out first.

Pundits have all sorts of valuation metrics they use to compare stock prices to historical trends—from simple one-year price/earnings multiples to “smoothed” ten-year earnings averages relative to price. But none of them provide much accuracy in terms of signaling the precise time to enter and exit the market. The best we can say about them is when valuations are relatively high, future returns may be a bit lower than average and vice versa.

Probably the best method of “bubble detection”, to the extent such a thing is even possible, is to simply observe an investment’s recent past performance history to measure how far in excess of the long-term average it has been. For example, Gold experienced a ten-year run starting in 1971 where it returned almost 32% per year. US small cap stocks earned 27% per year for the decade ending in 1984. And Japanese stocks produced over 28% per year returns in the 1980s. All of these results were well above long-term expectations and unsustainable, as each market eventually "reverted to the mean." Have we reached this point again?

Table 1: Historical Annualized Returns (1928 to 2013)

Portfolio

Nov 2003 to Oct 2013

1928-2002

Recent Difference

US Total Stock Index

+7.9%

+9.6%

-1.7%

Equity Asset Class Mix

+10.3%

+11.9%

-1.6%

Balanced Asset Class Mix

+8.7%

+10.3%

-1.6%

Table 1 looks at three different investment portfolios: a traditional US total stock index, followed by two more diversified asset class mixes—an all-stock allocation (“Equity”) and a balanced stock and bond combination (“Balanced”).

For the recent ten-year period, investment returns have been healthy despite the debilitating setback in 2008. The US Total Stock Index earned almost 8% per year. But this is far from an alarming rise in prices, as the average over the previous 75 years was 1.7% higher, at +9.6% per year. So far, so good. If lower-than-average returns have created a market bubble, that would certainly be the first time.

How about for more diversified asset class portfolios? They’ve certainly done better than a simple total stock index, but this has always been the case. In the recent period, the “Equity Asset Class Mix” earned a +10.3% annual return and the “Balanced Asset Class Mix” earned +8.7% per year. But these results were both 1.6% per year lower than their long-term historical average using US-only indexes due to availability. What hasn’t changed in either period is the spread of outperformance for the asset class mixes relative to the total stock index—about +2.4% in each period for the equity version, and +0.8% in each period for the balanced version. Of the two, arguably the more impressive result is the balanced mix. Despite its lower level of outperformance, it achieved this feat with about 40% less risk than the US Total Stock Index in each period.

Warren Buffet once said something to the effect that forecasts say more about the person making them than the actual claim itself, and that certainly holds true for bubble predictions. These are headline-grabbing claims that are sure to attract reader/viewership and more than a few worried individuals who will be pushed to act. But like all forecasts, these bubble warnings should be taken with a grain of salt. We have yet to develop a sure-fire method for predicting when the stock market will take a tumble. And even in cases where extreme and seemingly-excessive price increases do occur, they can continue for much longer than anyone would assume, rendering early action more costly than no action. In just the last two decades, for example, we've seen Nobel Prize-winner Professor Robert Shiller predict both the tech stock and real estate bubbles. Unfortunately, his first warnings were about five years early in each case, and we watched both those markets appreciate another 100% (in the case of the S&P 500 and REIT index) prior to eventually falling. In neither case did subsequent declines come close to retesting the market levels seen when his prognostications were first made.

As for the current state of the global equity markets, things appear to be pretty normal. Recent returns (last 10 years) have been about what we’d expect and within a small margin of error around the longer-term historical perspective. More diversified asset class portfolios have produced a sizable advantage over traditional total stock indexes, or produced similar returns with significantly less risk, but this too is par for the course. So simply put—talk of a stock market bubble is baloney.

Of course, following the worst calendar-year performance for stocks (2008) since the 1930s, recent five-year returns have been well above average. What does that say about the future? Stay tuned...

________________________

Source of data: DFA Returns 2.0

11/03 to 10/13

US Total Stock Index = Russell 3000 Index

Equity Asset Class Mix = 20% DFA US Large Company Fund (DFUSX), 20% DFA US Large Value Fund (DFLVX), 30% DFA US Small Value Fund (DFSVX), 10% each DFA Int’l Value Fund (DFIVX), Int’l Small Value Fund (DISVX), and EM Value Fund (DFEVX), rebalanced annually

Balanced Asset Class Mix = 65% Equity Mix, 35% DFA Five-Year Global Bond Fund (DFGBX), rebalanced annually

1928-2002

US Total Stock Index = CRSP 1-10 Index

Equity Asset Class Mix = 30% S&P 500, 30% DFA US Large Value Index, 40% DFA US Small Value Index, rebalanced annually.

Balanced Asset Class Mix = 65% Equity Mix, 35% 5YR T-Notes, rebalanced annually.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. The returns and other characteristics of the allocation mixes contained in this article are based on model/back-tested simulations to demonstrate broad economic principles. They were achieved with the benefit of hindsight and do not represent actual investment performance. There are limitations inherent in model performance; it does not reflect trading in actual accounts and may not reflect the impact that economic and market factors may have had on an advisor’s decision-making if the advisor were managing actual client money. Model performance is hypothetical and is for illustrative purposes only. Model performance shown includes reinvestment of dividends and other earnings but does not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees or other expenses except where noted. Clients’ investment returns would be reduced by the advisory fees and other expenses they would incur in the management of their accounts. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, and there is always the risk that an investor may lose money. Indexes are not available for direct investment.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Society
KEYWORDS: bubble; stockmarket

1 posted on 11/27/2013 7:28:07 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Well, this is it. As soon as the pundits start proclaiming “evertying is great”, the house of cards comes crashing down.

Look out below.


2 posted on 11/27/2013 7:38:31 AM PST by Signalman
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To: Signalman

I’ve always advised people whose stock portfolios are soaring to put a downside protection on their stocks.

LEARN PUT A TRAILING STOP. The problem is people buy but never learn to sell.


3 posted on 11/27/2013 7:41:33 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Back in the 90s people were eager and confident. This time around folks are a little more savvy and cautious. They know that a market built on paper money printed to the tune of $85 Billion a month might not be secure. So, we are not seeing the helter skelter internet rumors fueling a buying fever like before. Most of the rise in value is probably coming from institutional buyers and not individual investors.


4 posted on 11/27/2013 7:43:09 AM PST by Baynative (Wake me up early, be good to my dogs and teach my children to pray.)
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To: SeekAndFind

This time it’s different.


5 posted on 11/27/2013 7:46:01 AM PST by central_va (I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Any price above book value is speculation. PEs based upon projected future earnings are speculation. Today’s inflated PEs are darn right bubblicious.


6 posted on 11/27/2013 7:49:41 AM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: SeekAndFind

As long as qe infinity is on, the stock market will rise. It’s almost as if it is a tire pump and the market is the tire. And most of the “air” it produces goes into that tire.


7 posted on 11/27/2013 7:50:44 AM PST by cuban leaf
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To: FReepers
End It Before Thanksgiving


Click The Pic To Donate

Support FR, Donate Monthly If You Can

8 posted on 11/27/2013 7:51:32 AM PST by DJ MacWoW (The Fed Gov is not one ring to rule them all)
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To: SeekAndFind

The problem is people buy but never learn to sell.


That’s the problem I have with junk silver. :-)


9 posted on 11/27/2013 7:51:44 AM PST by cuban leaf
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To: cuban leaf

RE: That’s the problem I have with junk silver. :-)

Do you own Physical silver or an ETF like SLV?

I owned SLV when it was trading at $23. It reached a peak of $50 but I put a trailing stop when it reached $45 at 20% below the current trading price.

It sold automatically at $40.00. I still made a huge profit in a Silver market crash.

THAT is what people should be doing NOW with their stocks that are rising.


10 posted on 11/27/2013 8:00:58 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: Signalman

It is looking like the housing bubble, except here there is a promise of delivery of the value of the stock that is made of thin air compounded with poison gas foreign and domestic policies.

This stock market is propped by food stamps and by the inability to save. It is just companies betting into each other. Moreover they have to turn in a profit and loss and have to play the trade artifice compound interest by rolling the money in and out of lows and highs as fast as they can.


11 posted on 11/27/2013 8:27:04 AM PST by lavaroise
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To: Signalman

Yeah, that’s what a lot of folks are saying - don’t worry until they come out and proclaim that there’s nothing to worry about.

Like you can create 85 billion a month out of thin air, pump it into the stock market, and not have it be a “bubble”.


12 posted on 11/27/2013 8:29:05 AM PST by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
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To: MrB
don’t worry until they come out and proclaim that there’s nothing to worry about

Bears repeating.

13 posted on 11/27/2013 8:32:00 AM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: Signalman
My memory isn't that short. Before the real estate bubble, all of the experts were saying real estate values couldn't crash. Before the last stock market crash, the experts were saying that there couldn't be a crash....too many safeguards. Then there was the technology bubble that couldn't happen. And the pensions that were safe.

I don't trust anyone who knows what the future will bring.

14 posted on 11/27/2013 8:32:21 AM PST by grania
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To: SeekAndFind

I own physical silver that I keep within my reach. I’ve never actually sold a single coin. I only buy. If we don’t end up with SHTF in my lifetime, my kids can decide what to do with it.


15 posted on 11/27/2013 8:33:26 AM PST by cuban leaf
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To: BenLurkin
PEs based upon projected future earnings....

They are? I thought it was one of the few safe stats.

16 posted on 11/27/2013 8:34:20 AM PST by grania
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To: SeekAndFind

One word— Bitcoin....


17 posted on 11/27/2013 8:35:40 AM PST by freebilly (Creepy and the Ass Crackers....)
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To: grania

I well remember the late 80s when all the 28 yo MBAs declared that we had conquered recessions forever.


18 posted on 11/27/2013 8:36:51 AM PST by ChildOfThe60s ((If you can remember the 60s.....you weren't really there)
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To: ChildOfThe60s

I was at a Mensa meeting not much before the crash that started the “Great Recession” where a financial advisor told me mutual funds are 100% safe and that people aren’t smart enough to trade on their own.


19 posted on 11/27/2013 8:42:11 AM PST by grania
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To: SeekAndFind

The fed hasn’t been pumping money since 2003. If you want to see bubble returns look at the returns since the fed began QE.


20 posted on 11/27/2013 8:47:59 AM PST by jwalsh07
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To: grania
It is the most commonly used method of evaluating stock "value", but because it is a multiple of a projection, and that should give everyone cause for pause.

But remember, I'm just some dumb schlub posting on the internet. I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

21 posted on 11/27/2013 8:51:26 AM PST by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both.)
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To: lavaroise
It is looking like the housing bubble...

What housing bubble? They say that's a Recovery...

</sarc>

22 posted on 11/27/2013 9:12:53 AM PST by logi_cal869
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To: SeekAndFind
Right . . .

GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares fall on Fed tapering talk, pound up on BoE

23 posted on 11/27/2013 9:28:57 AM PST by Sgt_Schultze (A half-truth is a complete lie)
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To: logi_cal869

Excellent comment. The bogus claim of higher artificial evaluations of houses in order to mask a lack of equity is now replaced by the same mask of “recovery” artificial over evaluation of economic happiness and health in this country.

What a “recovery” indeed of a bunch of lies with a big lie.

I simply sense that people are buying future high values in the market that simply are not there, putting through options artificial surevaluations of the shares.

Options on insured buys at a certain “low” price or sell at higher price artificially force people to keep in the game.


24 posted on 11/27/2013 10:18:23 AM PST by lavaroise
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