Long Term "Progress"
By my way of thinking, the US has been in a bull market since 1982. Earnings and dividends have
progressed and with a deceleration of inflation and a lengthy downtrend of interest rates, the p/e
ratio has increased, especially over 1982 - 1993, as investors have bid down the discount or hurdle
rate required to find stocks attractive. The p/e multiple has held up despite more volatility of earnings
as companies have run more aggressive finance policies such as raising the earnings plowback rate,
buying in far more shares for the treasury, making many acquisitions using purchase accounting,
underfunding or eliminating pensions, and with the connivance of the accounting profession,
ruthlessly writing off their failures as "extraordinary items" instead of charging losses to operating
earnings. Most investors have applauded it all.
With decelerating inflation and globalization both making it tougher to generate pricing power,
companies have worked wonders slashing overheads and operating expenses. Investors have
welcomed this progress in increasing profitability. Investors who have called for a return of
profit margins back down to historical levels have been continuously frustrated.
Most companies have increasingly focused on achieving investor pleasing short term results.
There are few very talented CEOs with the vision to grow their companies longer term, but
a goodly number of CEOs who have the ability to see around corners when it comes to their
own shorter run self interest.
What we have yet to learn of course is the price companies may have to pay for ignoring the
For good measure, and to keep the deflationary wolf from the door during this lengthy period
of "disinflation", the Fed has stood willing to provide copious amounts of liquidity when the
occasion required such.
On To the Chart
If you have been along for the ride, it has been good enough. Since year end 1993, SPX net
per share has increased by about 7.5% annually and the index has gained 7.7% per.
Looking at the chart and connecting the tops from 2010 and 2011, note that the market is
getting extended. Note also that the channel up from the low in late 2011 is not so extended.
If the latter channel stays in force and carries the day we will likely be moving into a giddier
blow off phase for awhile.
Watch the monthly chart as you go forward. The MACD over the past 20 years has provided
good guidance.If the blue line breaks below the brown one there may be trouble. Otherwise,
we may be OK. Note also the RSI trend which has been heading up since early 2009. A
break in that uptrend my also require your attention.
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!