Climbing A Wall of Worry

Climbing A Wall of Worry

I must be getting very mature in annual lap counts. Even though I do not feel old at all, the New Year’s Day celebrations are clicking off with but a few days in between them. Seems like a couple of months ago that I was saying good riddance to 2015 since even the S&P 500 eked out less than 1.4 percent total return only by virtue of dividends paid.

I claimed optimism about 2016 one year ago this week in these same pages. I just didn’t know we would experience the worst period of 28 stock market days in the past six decades even before Ground Hog Day. By the time the year’s stock market low occurred on February 11th, some experts were saying things like, You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

In April, BlackRock CEO, Larry Fink, opined that the market had gotten about 70 percent of the drop that should have occurred in the market correction (www.cnbc.com/2016/04/14/blackrocks-fink-expects-stocks-higher-by-year-end.html). But the citation shows his expectation for the stock market by year end.

As recently as August 4, Brian Kelly a CNBC contributor noted that Warren Buffett’s preferred method of valuing the stock market—comparing Total Market Capitalization to the US Gross Domestic Product—suggested stocks are significantly overvalued. (www.cnbc.com/2016/08/04/if-you-follow-warren-buffets-strategy-this-market-is-significantly-overvalued-commecommentary.html).

In the meantime, the stock indexes climbed their proverbial wall of worries and have marked numbers of record highs in the past couple of months. Happy Days must be here again if you consider that stock prices express the optimism of investors out about six to nine months. Through last Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen 17.5 percent this year. The S&P 500 registered 13 percent up. The tech heavy Nasdaq 100 lagged with an 8.9 percent rise, a little better than the S&P 500 Growth Index at 8.1.

If you added a global focus for safety through diversification, you failed to keep up. The MSCI EAFE index comes in with just under .4 percent year to date. Emerging market stocks suffered an incredible loss of 32 percent in 2015 and just recently have begun to make upward progress. The traditional safe haven of bonds as measured by the US Aggregate index delivered you 1.97 percent, behind the 2.1 percent of core inflation (http://www.ftportfolios.com/Commentary/MarketCommentary/2016/12/27/week-of-december-27th).

Just in case you think all watchers are sanguine about a wonderful 2017, Robert Schiller, Yale professor, has his own stock market valuation method called the Cyclically Adjusted Price Earnings ratio (CAPE). Using this one, we should all run, not walk, to the stock market exits.  Markets are greatly overvalued using this comparison, according to Nicholas A. Vardy (www.marketwatch.com/sotry/will-us-stock-markets-soar-20-in 2017-2016-12-23).

For my part, I expect a reasonably good rise in stock prices during 2017 again. There are some excellent supports for this including the optimism that greet most new Presidents in their first year, and the rise in the growth rate of revenues and profits that began in the past several quarters after a flat period. I just hope the rise will not be so exciting this year. I did not care much for the 2016 roller coaster experience.

(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)

December 29th, 2016|Categories: Stocks|