Rosenberg: Valuation Still Matters

Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg on the market’s overvaluation, sent to clients last Friday:

On one-year forward (operating) earning estimates, the P/E ratio is now 15.7x, the highest it has been in nearly five years. At the peak of the S&P; 500 in the last cycle — October 2007 — the forward P/E was 14.3x, and the highest it ever got in the last cycle was 15.4x. So hello? In just six short months, we have managed to take the multiple above the peak of the last cycle when the economic expansion was five years old, not five weeks old (and we may be a tad charitable on that assessment).

As an aside, the forward multiple on the eve of the 1987 stock market collapse was 14x and one of the explanations for the steep correction was that equities were so overvalued and overbought that it was vulnerable to any shock (in that case, it came out of the US dollar market). It certainly was not the economy because that sharp 30% slide took place even with an economy that was humming along at a 4.5% clip.

In other words, valuation may not be the best timing device, but it still matters. If the S&P; 500 was in a 700-750 range, de facto pricing in zero to 1% real GDP growth, we would certainly be interested in boosting our allocations towards equities. But at 1,060 and over 4.0% GDP growth effectively being discounted, we will be spectators as opposed to participants, understanding that the key to success is to NOT buy at the peaks.

So the strategy is to sit on the sidelines, be selective in our equity choices, and wait for the correction to come or for the fundamentals to catch up with this overvalued, overbought, overextended market. Remember, the reason why the tortoise won the race was because the hare got tired.

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