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David Moenning is a the proprietor of StateoftheMarkets.com. In addition to providing free and subscription-based portfolios on "State", Dave is a full-time money manager and the President and Chief Investment Strategist of a Chicago-based Registered Investment Advisory firm. Dave... More
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Daily State of the Markets
  • Another Way To Look At Valuations 0 comments
    Jan 16, 2014 9:07 AM

    Daily State of the Markets
    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    The action in the stock market appears to be as confused as the message coming out of Goldman Sachs this week. If you will recall, it was Goldman's "valuation call" on Monday that sent stocks tumbling. Then on Tuesday, it was the wealth management arm of Goldman saying stocks are not overvalued and that clients should stay fully invested.

    Although stocks rallied again on Wednesday (without the help of Goldman's guidance this time), the state of the market remains a bit of a question mark. In fact, the state of the market's trend depends entirely on which index one is viewing. For example, if you look only at the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you would conclude that stocks are in a downtrend. Yet, if you follow the Russell 2000 smallcaps or the Midcaps, you would contend that the market has recently embarked on a new leg higher. And if you spend your days looking at a chart of the S&P 500, your would likely conclude that stocks are in a trading range.

    So, while we wait for traders to sort this thing out, we thought it would be a good time to finish up our review of the important market models - something we like to refer to as the "market math." Today, we'll explore another approach to looking at stock market valuations.

    Building a Valuation Model

    The idea behind using a "tree of indicators" approach (i.e. a market model) is to avoid the type of problems we saw in the GAAP P/E indicator in yesterday's missive. Unfortunately though, it doesn't matter currently whether you look at Price-to-Dividend, Price-to-Book Value, or Price-to-Cash Flow, the problem is the same - the data is all over the map and it is very difficult to draw any type of objective conclusions from the indicators.

    So, one answer is to build a "relative valuation" model where valuations are compared to the level of interest rates. This takes into account the fact that when rates are low, valuations tend to be high and vice versa. This approach also appears to be able to adapt to a changing rate environment, which is a definite plus over time.

    A Relative Valuation Model

    Using a relative valuation approach, where one compares valuations to things like earnings yields, dividend yields, yield spreads, yields after inflation, etc., helps alleviate some of the problems that the last 20 years has created for valuation indicators.

    For example, using a relative valuation model to produce buy and sell signals since 1965 has been fairly successful. 90 percent of the trades would have been profitable and the gain per annum using such an approach is nearly 50 percent higher than buy and hold. Oh, and the model has been on a buy signal since the summer of 2009.

    Since 1965, when the model has been bullish, the S&P has gained at a rate of 13.0 percent per year and when the model is negative, the market has declined at an annual rate of -4.2 percent.

    Thus, we can say that the model appears to do a decent job on a long-term basis both in terms of the spread of returns between positive and negative readings in the model and providing buy/sell signals.

    However, this particular model tends to flash signals that can be very early. The sell signal prior to the technology bubble bursting in early 2000 came more than two years early. And in 1987, the signal came well before the market top.

    It is also important to note that not all bear markets are accompanied/caused by extreme valuations. Thus, using this type of model alone would be a mistake.

    Like the sentiment models though, a relative valuation model can provide a solid warning that a bull market may be nearing an end.

    What Does the Relative Valuation Model Say Now?

    Currently, the relative valuation model remains on a buy signal and in a bullish mode. This tells us that relative to absolute yields and inflation-adjusted yields, stock prices are not overvalued.

    However, it should also be noted that the reading of the model has been steadily declining for the past two years.

    Finally, it is also important to recognize that this type of model WILL be impacted by rising interest rates. And given that rates have been movin' on up since May and the Fed will continue to reduce their bond-buying program, most analysts believe that rates have nowhere to go but up (anyone care to play contrarian here?).

    In summary, the valuation debate is likely to rage on as there is no clear-cut answer to be gleaned from a myriad of indicators.

    The bears contend that the combination rising rates and historically high multiples will eventually come home to roost. As a result, the-glass-is-half-empty crowd, as you'd expect, isn't high on the prospects for stocks in 2014.

    However, the bulls remind us that positive market environments tend to last longer than most can imagine, that rates remain historically low, that inflation is nowhere to be found, and that the trend is your friend.

    The Final Takeaway

    As we've opined recently, our view is that stocks are likely due for some sort of meaningful pullback at some point in 2014. And our ultimate takeaway from our review of the "market math" tells us that this is an environment where it makes sense to play the game more cautiously and with an eye on the exits.

    Publishing Note: I am traveling for much of the next week and will publish morning reports as time permits.

    Looking for a disciplined approach to managing stock market risk on a daily basis? Check Out My "Daily Decision" System. Forget the fast money and the latest, greatest option trade. What investors need is a strategy to keep them "in" the stock market during bull markets and on the sidelines (or short) during bear markets.

    Turning to This Morning...

    Overnight, markets were fairly quiet in Asia and Europe is modestly lower today. In the U.S. all eyes are on the earnings (which are also presenting a mixed bag/confusing message) as well as the economic data. Stock futures are pointing to a modest decline at the open on Wall Street.

    Pre-Game Indicators

    Here are the Pre-Market indicators we review each morning before the opening bell...

    Major Foreign Markets:
    - Japan: -0.39%
    - Hong Kong: +0.37%
    - Shanghai: +0.03%
    - London: +0.08%
    - Germany: -0.24%
    - France: -0.21%
    - Italy: -0.36%
    - Spain: -0.25%

    Crude Oil Futures: +$0.04 to $94.21

    Gold: +$2.00 to $1237.10

    Dollar: higher against the yen, euro and pound

    10-Year Bond Yield: Currently trading at 2.860%

    Stock Futures Ahead of Open in U.S. (relative to fair value):
    - S&P 500: -5.23
    - Dow Jones Industrial Average: -40
    - NASDAQ Composite: -7.69

    Thought For The Day...

    "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails." -- William Arthur Ward

    Positions in stocks mentioned: none

    Follow Me on Twitter: @StateDave

    The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are those of Mr. David Moenning and may not actually come to pass. Mr. Moenning's opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations. The analysis and information in this report and on our website is for informational purposes only. No part of the material presented in this report or on our websites is intended as an investment recommendation or investment advice. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed nor any Portfolio constitutes a solicitation to purchase or sell securities or any investment program. The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the editors of StateoftheMarkets.com and may not actually come to pass. The opinions and viewpoints regarding the future of the markets should not be construed as recommendations of any specific security nor specific investment advice. One should always consult an investment professional before making any investment.

    Any investment decisions must in all cases be made by the reader or by his or her investment adviser. Do NOT ever purchase any security without doing sufficient research. There is no guarantee that the investment objectives outlined will actually come to pass. All opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice. Neither the editor, employees, nor any of their affiliates shall have any liability for any loss sustained by anyone who has relied on the information provided.

    The analysis provided is based on both technical and fundamental research and is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. Although the information contained is derived from sources which are believed to be reliable, they cannot be guaranteed.

    The information contained in this report is provided by Ridge Publishing Co. Inc. (Ridge). One of the principals of Ridge, Mr. David Moenning, is also President and majority shareholder of Heritage Capital Management, Inc. (NASDAQ:HCM) a Chicago-based money management firm. HCM is registered as an investment adviser. HCM also serves as a sub-advisor to other investment advisory firms. Ridge is a publisher and has not registered as an investment adviser. Neither HCM nor Ridge is registered as a broker-dealer.

    Employees and affiliates of HCM and Ridge may at times have positions in the securities referred to and may make purchases or sales of these securities while publications are in circulation. Editors will indicate whether they or HCM has a position in stocks or other securities mentioned in any publication. The disclosures will be accurate as of the time of publication and may change thereafter without notice.

    Investments in equities carry an inherent element of risk including the potential for significant loss of principal. Past performance is not an indication of future results.

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