"I Will Gladly Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today"
In October of 2013, Robert Shiller won the Nobel Prize in economics for his research on spotting market bubbles. Shiller, an economist and professor at Yale University who accurately predicted the housing bubble, is a pioneer of behavioral finance, or the understanding of how psychology causes us to act irrationally with our money.
The Price Action of Stocks Trumps Fundamentals
Perhaps the best argument that one can make for stocks is that many hold doubts about the continuing bull market. The reasons for these doubts are understandable, as the economic recovery has been anemic and growth has slowed significantly - likely leading to lower profits in the future. As a result, corporations have aggressively cut costs, increased productivity and preserved cash - pushing profit margins to historically high levels.
Ted Williams, Ford F-150's, and Market Valuations
In late 2008 Lehman Brothers had just collapsed, AIG needed help from the US government and markets around the world were in a tailspin. Today, five short years later, we find it strange how the strength of the stock market defies a climate of declining earnings. With another quarter of corporate results behind us, equities continue to rally despite corporate earnings offering no material support, with many companies actually talking down their future growth prospects.
This Will Not End Well
How do you justify higher equity valuations if profit margins are more likely to contract than expand and revenue growth is stalling? Why naturally you discount those future cash flows by a lower cost of capital! But to my eye, the Federal Reserve appears to be slowly losing control of the bond market interest rates are separating from the raw pressure of central bank interventions. We know why this will end badly, we just dont know when.
Risk Communicates Signals that Something Important is at Stake
The equity markets hit new all-time highs again this past quarter. However, we believe this rally is largely due to Ben Bernanke?s policy of Quantitative Easing (QE) which presently equates to the purchase of $85 billion in U.S. government debt every month. Through the Federal Reserve?s policies our government has effectively printed trillions of dollars since the financial crisis began, arguably inflating a host of asset prices including the stock market.