This is the most dangerous and overvalued stock market on record — worse than 2007, worse than 2000, even worse than 1929.
Or so warns Wall Street soothsayer John Hussman in his scariest jeremiad yet.
“Presently, we observe the broadest market valuation extreme in history,” writes the chairman of the cautious Hussman Funds investment group, “with the steepest median valuations on record, and the most reliable capitalization-weighted measures within a few percent of their 2000 peaks.”
On top of such warning signs as “extreme valuations, bullish sentiment, and consumer confidence,” he adds, “market action has deteriorated in interest-sensitive sectors… As of Friday, more than one-third of stocks are already below their 200-day moving averages.”
Don’t be fooled by the booming headline indexes. More NYSE stocks hit new 52-week lows last week than new 52-week highs, he notes.
In a nutshell: Run.
OK, so, it is always easy to criticize. Hussman, a professional economist and well-known Wall Street figure, has been here before. He’s been warning about stock-market valuations for several years. He’s in that camp that the permabulls, wrongly, call “permabears.”
He’s been wrong — or, perhaps, just very early — many times.
But he was, notably, also correct and prescient about both the 2000 and 2008 crashes before they happened, when few others were.
Opinions, of course, are free. But facts are sacred. And more than a few are suggesting caution.
According to the World Bank, the total U.S. stock market is now valued at more than 150% of annual gross domestic product. That is way above historic norms, and about the same as it was at the market extreme of 2000.
This is a measure that Warren Buffett has praised in the past as a good indicator of whether or not stocks are overvalued.
According to Yale finance professor Robert Shiller, the S&P 500 SPX, -0.04% now trades on a cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio of 30, compared to a historic fair value for this measure of about 16.
And according to the Federal Reserve, the so-called “q,” which compares stock-market values with the real-world prices of corporate assets, is 1.0. Again, that’s way above historic average, which is around 0.65, even though it’s not yet in crazy year-2000 territory.
Both measures have solid track records over more than 100 years of predicting long-term stock-market returns, though their most recent record is either poor or still unproven, depending on whom you ask.
Market veterans note that even if Wall Street is overvalued, as some of these things suggest, there is nothing to prevent it becoming even more so before any correction. That’s what happened in 1929, 2000 and 2007-2008. But the more valuations get stretched, the more dangerous it becomes.
None of this proves for certain that the current euphoria is misguided. But it is something to bear in mind before we let it go to our heads. Hussman, wisely, recalls the warning of the late, great investor Sir John Templeton, that euphoria is how bull markets die.