Market Could Be Caught in Holding Pattern for Next Decade or Two

by: William Trent, CFA

Like ourselves, Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has long described the current market in terms of a long-cycle wave in which P/E multiples are contracting back to historic lows (although they have regressed back to pretty close to the mean -- above average periods, by definition, need to be offset by periods of below-average valuation.),

Barry points out that Barron’s has picked up on the theme.

P/E Contraction

Perhaps now that Barrons Up & Down Wall Street has run it, the concept may be perceived as less ridiculous than it has up until now.

Here’s Mike Santoli’s take (sub. req.) from that Baron's piece:

Something about the larger environment might be at work, too. As the [above] chart shows, we are about six years beyond the peak of the last bull market, long enough for investors to feel they’ve paid their dues and are owed some easy profits.

Yet reminders of the fragility of the gains mustered haven’t been handled smoothly. Not to spoil anyone’s fun, but the three earlier periods that followed huge secular bull markets lasted from 16 to 25 years, in which bull and bear markets came and went but little progress was made. Yes, it could be different this time. Make that bet only after looking at the chart.