Why Stocks Can Go Much Higher

By Bryan Rich

August 21, 5:00 pm EST

With the S&P 500 finally returning to new record highs today, fully recovering the price correction this year, let’s take a look back at the correction, and where stocks can go from here.

As I said in my January 30 note “experience tells us that markets don’t go in a straight line. And with that, we should expect to have dips along the way for this bull market. Since 1946, the S&P 500 has had a 10% decline about once a year on average. A correction here would be healthy and would set the table for hotter earnings and hotter economic growth (coming down the pike) to ultimately drive the remainder of stock returns for the year.

Fast forward eight months, and we’ve now had a 12% correction.  And we’ve since had back-to-back quarters of 20%+ earnings growth, with an economy that is finally growing at better than 3% four-quarter average annualized growth.

Meanwhile, stocks remain cheap.  The 10-year yield is still under 3%.  And historically, when rates are low (sub 3% is still VERY low), stocks tend to trade north of 20 times earnings.  The forward P/E on stocks at the moment is just 17.  If we apply a 20x multiple to $170 in forward S&O 500 earnings, we get 3,400 in the S&P.  That’s 19% higher.

With that in mind, let’s also revisit my chart on the long term growth rate of the S&P 500.


In the orange line, you can see what the S&P 500 looks like growing at 8% annualized (the long-run average growth rate) from the pre-crisis peak in 2007. This is where stocks should have gone, absent the near global economic apocalypse. And you can see the actual path for stocks in the blue line.

Bottom line: Despite the nice run we’ve had in stocks, off the bottom in 2009, we still have a big gap to make up (the difference between the blue line and the orange line). This is the lost decade for stocks.

This argues for another 28% higher in stocks to fill that gap.

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