Why Stocks Are Still Cheap


January 6, 2017, 7:00pm EST

With the Dow within a fraction of 20,000 today, and with the first week of 2017 in the books, I want to revisit my analysis from last month on why stocks are still cheap.

Despite what the media may tell you, the number 20,000 means very little. In fact, it’s amusing to watch interviewers constantly probe the experts on TV to get an anwer on why 20,000 for the Dow is meaningful. They demand an answer and they tend to get them when the lights and a camera are locked in on the interviewee.

Remember, if we step back and detach from the emotions of market chatter, speculation and perception, there are simple and objective reasons to believe the broader stock market can go much higher from current levels.

I want to walk through these reasons again for the new year.

Reason #1: To return to the long-term trajectory of 8% annualized returns for the S&P 500, the broad stock market would still need to recovery another 49% by the middle of next year. We’re still making up for the lost growth of the past decade.

Reason #2: In low-rate environments, the valuation on the broad market tends to run north of 20 times earnings. Adjusting for that multiple, we can see a reasonable path to a 16% return for the year.

Reason #3: We now have a clear, indisputable earnings catalyst to add to that story. The proposed corporate tax rate cut from 35% to 15% is estimated to drive S&P 500 earnings UP from an estimated $132 per share for next year, to as high as $157. Apply $157 to a 20x P/E and you get 3,140 in the S&P 500. That’s 38% higher.

Reason #4: What else is not factored into all of this simple analysis, nor the models of economists and Wall Street strategists? The prospects of a return of ‘animal spirits.’ This economic turbocharger has been dead for the past decade. The world has been deleveraging.

Reason #5: As billionaire Ray Dalio suggested, there is a clear shift in the environment, post President-elect Trump. The billionaire investor has determined the election to be a seminal moment. With that in mind, the most thorough study on historical debt crises (by Reinhardt and Rogoff) shows that the deleveraging of a credit bubble takes about as long as it took to build. They reckon the global credit bubble took about ten years to build. The top in housing was 2006. That means we’ve cleared ten years of deleveraging. That would argue that Trumponomics could be coming at the perfect time to amplify growth in a world that was already structurally turning. A pop in growth, means a pop in corporate earnings–and positive earnings surprises is a recipe for higher stock prices.

For these five simple reasons, even at Dow 20,000, stocks look extraordinarily cheap.

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