The S&P 500 is now more than 200% higher than at its crisis-induced 2009 lows. Despite the powerful recovery in stocks, the rally has had few believers. All along the way, skeptics have pointed to threats in Europe, domestic debt issues, central bank meddling, political stalemates, perceived asset bubbles — you name it. As it relates to stocks, they’ve all been dead wrong.
The truth is, global central banks are in control. They have been coordinating since 2009 to save the worldwide economy from an apocalyptic spiral. Because the crisis was global, and the structural problems remain highly intertwined globally, the only hope toward achieving a return to sustainable growth was through a coordinated effort to restore stability and confidence. And with that backdrop, they had to create incentives for people to take risk again. It has worked! With the Fed moving closer to exiting emergency policies, this past year, the QE baton has been passed from the Fed to the ECB and the BOJ.
As part of the massive QE programs in Europe and Japan, the Bank of Japan has been outright buying stocks and the ECB might be next. After doubling the value of the Nikkei with his economic stimulus program, the architect of Abenomics, Prime Minister Abe, has said they are only “half way to its goals.” With the tail-winds of central bank influence to continue (Reason #1 to buy stocks). Here are three more simple reasons you should be buying, not selling, stocks:
If we applied the long-run annualized return for stocks (8%) to the pre-crisis highs of 1,576 on the S&P 500, we get 3,150 by the end of next year, when the Fed is expected to begin the slow process toward normalizing rates. That’s nearly 52% higher than current levels. Below you can see the table of the S&P 500, projecting this “normal” growth rate to stocks.
In addition to the above, consider this: The P/E on next year’s S&P 500 earnings estimate is just 16.2, in line with the long-term average (16). But we are not just in a low-interest-rate environment, we are in the mother of all low-interest-rate environments (ZERO). With that, when the 10-year yield runs on the low side, historically, the P/E on the S&P 500 runs closer to 20, if not north of it. If we multiply next year’s consensus earnings estimate for the S&P 500 of $126.77 by 20 (where stocks to be valued in low rate environments), we get 2,535 for the S&P 500 by next year — 23% higher.
3) Recession Risk
For those who argue the economy is fragile, the bond market disagrees with you. The yield curve may be the best predictor of recessions historically. Yield curve inversions (where short rates move above longer-term rates) have preceded each of the last seven recessions. Based on this analysis, the below chart from the Cleveland Fed shows the current recession risk at 3.66% — virtually nil.
What about the impact on stocks of a rate hiking cycle? Historically, through the past six rate hiking cycles stocks have performed well, contrary to popular belief. Still, there is an important distinction this time: The Fed moving away from emergency policies is a celebratory event for stocks and the economy. After nine years of crisis, and a near global apocalypse, the Fed thinks the economy is robust enough take down the “high alert” flag.
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