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from Breakingviews:

S&P 500 at 2,000 invites “new normal” thinking

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Beware new paradigms. The S&P 500 Index’s first trades above 2,000 on Monday invite the idea of a new normal in markets. The price-to-earnings ratio is under 20, only moderately above average, and interest rates remain low. But U.S. earnings are at a peak relative to GDP. Assume they adjust back to the long-term norm, and the stock benchmark would be a third lower.

The average PE ratio for the S&P since its inception has been just above 15. The current valuation multiple is higher, but still well short of past peaks. That suggests there could be further to run, though a reversion to the long-term average would leave the index only slightly above 1,500, down almost a quarter from the current level.

Low interest rates also support continued share-price buoyancy. One theory known as the Fed model postulates that the earnings yield on stocks should be equal to the long-term Treasury bond yield. The model largely held during the 1990s, although it hasn’t looked particularly accurate since. The implication at today’s 2.4 percent 10-year bond rate would be for the S&P Index to trade at around 4,200.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Here’s what it will take to trigger the next stock market correction

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the market's opening in New York

As Wall Street hit another new record Thursday, it is worth considering what could cause a serious setback in stock market prices around the world. Since I started writing this column in 2012, I have repeatedly argued that the rebound in stock market prices from their nadir in the 2008-09 global financial crisis was turning into a structural bull market that could continue into the next decade.

Asset prices, however, never move in a straight line. It has been more than two years without even a 10 percent correction and five years without a 20 percent setback. This cannot go on.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Markets: Exuberance is not always ‘irrational’

A pedestrian holding his mobile phone walks past an electronic board showing the stock market indices of various countries outside a brokerage in Tokyo

With the stock market continuing to hit new highs almost daily despite the appalling geopolitical disasters and human tragedies unfolding in Ukraine, Gaza, Syria and Iraq, there has been much head-scratching about the baffling indifference among investors. Many economists and analysts see this apparent complacency as a symptom of a deeper malaise: an “irrational exuberance” that has pushed stock prices to absurdly overvalued levels.

The most celebrated proponent of this view is Robert Shiller, the Nobel Prize-winning, Yale University economist who is often credited with predicting both the 2000 stock market crash and the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble. Shiller may or may not have deserved a Nobel Prize for his academic work on behavioral economics but as a practical guide to investing, his approach has been thoroughly refuted by real-world experience.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Yellen’s remarkably unremarkable news conference – and why it’s a good thing

Yellen holds a news conference following two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting at the Federal Reserve in WashingtonJohn Maynard Keynes famously said that his highest ambition was to make economic policy as boring as dentistry. In this respect, as in so many others, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is proving to be a loyal Keynesian.

Yellen’s second news conference as Fed chair conveyed no new information about the timing of future interest rate moves. She gave no hints about an “exit strategy” for the Fed to return the $3 trillion of bonds it has acquired to the private sector. She told us nothing about the Fed’s expectations on inflation, employment and economic growth -- not even about the board’s views on financial volatility, regulation, asset prices or bank credit policies.

from Expert Zone:

India Markets Weekahead: Pre-budget rally may be muted

A man looks at a screen across the road displaying the election results on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai May 16, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Nifty touched a new high of 7,700 before cracking on Friday to slip about 0.5 percent for the week. This was primarily triggered by the unrest in Iraq and the subsequent rise in crude prices.

The markets were also overbought aided by a relentless rally since May 9‎, with the CNX Nifty climbing about 16 percent, S&P BSE Midcap Index rising 26 percent and the S&P BSE Small cap index jumping 35 percent. The last one-month saw 115 multi-baggers with 92 percent of traded stocks gaining during the period. The probability of picking a loser was minimal. It seemed making money had never been so easy.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

No reason for these stock market jitters

anatole -- unhappy trader

“Sell in May and go away.”

This stock market adage has served investors well four years in a row. Every year since 2010, stock markets around the world have suffered significant corrections between a high reached in May and a low in the summer or early autumn: by 15 percent in 2010, 19 percent in 2011, 9 percent in 2012 and 5 percent in 2013, as gauged by the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Given that the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its highest level ever on April 30, while the S&P 500 peaked less than 1 percent shy of its all-time record, it may seem sensible to follow the seasonal adage. Regardless of one’s views about the long-term prospects for the world economy.

from Expert Zone:

In defence of the defensives: Why IT, pharma stocks are not pariahs

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Expectation that the ongoing general election will throw up a stable government has spurred a return to risk in domestic equities. The consequent rally has meant those favoured defensives of the sluggish times - information technology and pharma stocks - received a shearing.

The CNX IT index shed 7.8 percent and CNX Pharma 10.1 percent in March - even as the benchmark Nifty surged 6.8 percent.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Behind Wall Street’s anxiety

The recent economic news has been about as investor-friendly as anyone could imagine.

It started with last week’s strong U.S. employment figures; continued through Tuesday’s reassuring International Monetary Fund forecasts, which put the probability of avoiding a global recession this year to 99.9 percent, and culminated in dovish Federal Reserve minutes, which soothed concerns about an earlier than expected  increase in U.S. interest rates.

from MacroScope:

Pinning down the January effect on U.S. jobs figures

With Wall Street grappling to hold on to its record highs, a lot is riding on good news from the U.S. economy, no matter how high the Federal Reserve has set the bar for backing off its clear plan to end its monetary stimulus program this year.

After two huge upsets in a row on the important U.S. economic data releases since Christmas -- December non-farm payrolls and the January ISM manufacturing report, forecasters are lining up again for an improvement in hiring.

from Expert Zone:

As liquidity dries, time for fundamentals

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The focus is back where it should be for equity investors - fundamentals.

In the past few years,  markets around the world have swayed to the wave of liquidity unleashed by central banks in a bid to get their economies back on track. The U.S. Federal Reserve, for one, was buying as much as $85 billion of bonds a month since September 2012. But that tap is beginning to taper with the Fed reducing purchases by $10 billion in January and another $10 billion in February.

We feel that this, together with a host of factors at home, sets the stage for a more sanguine approach to equities. I indicated in my note last month that we expect 2014 to be a year of fragile recovery for the Indian economy. The scenario will be similar for Indian equities.

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