P/E Ratios By Country

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by: Ploutos

Summary

With the domestic equity market near all-time highs, this article looks around the world at other national stock indices to compare multiples.

Differences in growth rates, real interest rates, and index and economic composition will necessarily lead to some dispersion, but placing the domestic markets in a global context helps frame valuations.

The U.S. indices look roughly in line on a trailing earnings basis and slightly elevated on a forward P/E basis.

The U.S. stock market continues to bounce around all-time highs. Market participants need to determine whether these levels are justified given their respective forward expectations for economic and earnings growth.

In a pair of recent articles, I have raised some concerns about overall equity valuations. The S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) is as expensive as a multiple of hourly earnings as any time in its history. Regressing the S&P 500 P/E ratio against the 10-year Treasury yield suggests stocks are modestly overvalued.

With these articles, I am trying to provide readers with a balanced overall view of the valuation of the equity market, and trying not to strike the alarmist tones of market bears who have predicted two dozen of the last three downturns. Over long-time intervals, owning U.S. stocks has been and will continue to be a winning proposition. With these valuation exercises, we are looking to inform near-term positioning consistent with each reader's risk tolerance. This article offers another way of viewing the domestic equity multiples in a global context.

The first chart shows trailing P/E ratios by country. The trailing P/E ratios take the current index level and divide by trailing twelve-month earnings excluding extraordinary items. The forward P/E ratios are the current index level divided by Bloomberg's Estimate for Earnings Per Share for the next four quarters.

Source: Bloomberg

The major U.S. indices, excluding the tech-focused Nasdaq (NASDAQ:QQQ), are roughly in line based on trailing earnings...

Source: Bloomberg

And look slightly elevated based on estimated forward earnings.

Source: Bloomberg

The valuations in the United States look very similar to the valuations in Canada. U.S. valuations look slightly elevated relative to Europe. Part of the argument for expanded multiples in the United States is low prevailing interest rates. Rates are even lower in Europe, but multiples still lag on expectations of continued relative underperformance in economic growth. Multiples are slightly higher in Japan, which faces its own unique secular and demographic headwinds, and where the ten-year JGB yields just 0.08%.

This data leaves me with a couple of takeaways:

  • Excluding the high-flying tech sector, U.S. equity multiples do not appear to be extreme outliers in a global context.
  • With the MSCI World Index also near an all-time high, perhaps absolute multiples are still stretched even if the U.S. is not an extreme outlier on a relative basis.
  • U.S. equities have largely outpaced global peers post-crisis, but the differences between trailing and forward earnings suggest that earnings growth is likely to be higher outside of the United States.
  • European stocks still generally look a little cheaper than U.S. stocks, and if the forecasted earnings growth occurs, they should outperform. An uncertainty discount likely continues to apply to stocks in Euro-area countries, adding incremental uncertainty to the forward forecast.

The goal here was to provide another lens to examine U.S. valuations using data that is not always readily accessible for Seeking Alpha readers. There are many different ways to view earnings multiples. I have chosen two approaches, and applied them consistently across indices. Please share your thoughts on the results.

Disclaimer: My articles may contain statements and projections that are forward-looking in nature, and therefore, inherently subject to numerous risks, uncertainties, and assumptions. While my articles focus on generating long-term risk-adjusted returns, investment decisions necessarily involve the risk of loss of principal. Individual investor circumstances vary significantly, and information gleaned from my articles should be applied to your own unique investment situation, objectives, risk tolerance, and investment horizon.

Disclosure: I am/we are long SPY.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.