Jeremy Siegel, Wharton University Professor and author of Stocks for the Long Run, is defending his long-term thesis that stocks will outperform bonds over the long. Mr. Siegel in his latest Financial Times article vigorously defends his optimistic equity belief despite recent questions regarding the validity and accuracy of his long-term data (see my earlier article).
He acknowledges the -3.15% return of U.S. stock performance over the last decade (the fourth worst period since 1871), so what gives him confidence in stocks now? Let’s take a peek on why Siegel is digging in his heels:
Since 1871, the three worst ten-year returns for stocks have ended in the years 1974, 1920, and 1978. These were followed, respectively, by real, after-inflation stock returns of more than 8 per cent, 13 per cent, and 9 per cent over next ten years. In fact for the 13 ten-year periods of negative returns stocks have suffered since 1871, the next ten years gave investors real returns that averaged over 10 per cent per year. This return has far exceeded the average 6.66 per cent real return in all ten years periods, and is twice the return offered by long-term government bonds.
Siegel’s bullish stock stance has also been attacked by Robert Arnott, Chairman of Research Affiliates, when he noted a certain bond strategy bested stocks over the last 40 years. Here’s what Mr. Siegel has to say about stock versus bond performance:
Even with the recent bear market factored in, stocks have always done better than Treasury bonds over every 30-year period since 1871. And over 20-year periods, stocks bested Treasuries in all but about 5 per cent of the cases… In fact, with the recent stock market recovery and bond market decline, stock returns now handily outpace bond returns over the past 30 and 40 years.
If you’re 50, 60, or older, then Siegel’s time horizons may not fit into your plans. Nonetheless, in any game one chooses to play (including the game of money), I, like many, prefer to have the odds stacked in my favor.
In addressing the skeptics, such as Bill Gross who believes the U.S. is entering a “New Normal” phase of sluggish growth, Mr. Siegel notes this commentary even if true does not account for the faster pace of international growth – Siegel goes on to explain that the S&P 500 corporations garner almost 50% of revenues from these faster growing areas outside the U.S.
On the subject of valuation, Mr. Siegel highlights the market is trading at roughly 14x’s 2010 estimates, well below the 18-20x multiples usually associated with low-interest rate periods like these.
In periods of extreme volatility (upwards or downwards), the prevailing beliefs fight reversion to the mean arguments because trend followers believe “this time is different.” Just think of the cab drivers who were buying tech stocks in the late 1990s, or of the neighbor buying rental real estate in 2006. Bill Gross with his “New Normal” doesn’t buy the reversion argument either. Time will tell if we have entered a new challenging era like Mr. Gross sees. Regardless, Professor Siegel will be digging in his heels as he invests in stocks for the long run.