Key stock indices are the main barometers of the market’s health. The key stock indices are the ones that most investors pay attention to when trying to understand where the market stands. For the U.S., the key stock indices include the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500. But the key stock indices can also include sub-groups that are crucial to a healthy market, such as the Dow Jones Transportation Index. In every country, there are key stock indices that one can follow to better understand the health of that country’s market.
According to the Investment Company Institute, investors have been taking money out of U.S. equity funds since April of this year.
Between April and July of 2014, investors pulled $32.0 billion from long-term stock market mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks. While August’s monthly figures are not available, looking at weekly data, it appears investors ran away from the stock market in August as well. (Source: Investment Company Institute web site, last accessed September 16, 2014.)
How does a stock market rise when investors are selling? Well, there is a bigger anomaly in the stock market you need to be aware of.
Another indicator is suggesting investors are scared about the stock market. The yields on long-term U.S. bonds have been declining since March despite the Federal Reserve’s prediction that interest rates are to rise sharply next year and in 2016.
Chart courtesy of www.StockCharts.com
As the chart above shows, yields on long-term U.S. bonds continue to go lower. Again, this is on the backdrop of the Fed getting out of the money printing business (and warning investors that interest rates are going to rise).
U.S. bonds have historically gone down when the Fed has told us interest rates are going to rise. But the fear of higher rates (and lower bond prices) is overwhelmed by the strong demand for U.S. bonds, as scared stock market investors jump into U.S. bonds—where they believe their money will be safe.
There are definite cracks starting to show in the stock market. While we hear and read about the main indices moving higher, there are fewer and fewer companies reaching new price … Read More
So the S&P 500 has touched the 2,000 mark.
Will the S&P 500 continue to march to new highs?
Well, my opinion towards the stock market hasn’t changed. I remain skeptical for a variety of reasons, many of which I have shared with my readers over the past few months.
But I have a new concern about the stock market, something that hasn’t been touched on by analysts: trading volume is collapsing.
Please look at the table below. It shows the performance of the S&P 500 and its change in trading volume.
|Year||Performance||Change in Volume|
*Until August 25, 2014
Data source: StockCharts.com, last accessed August 25, 2014
Key stock indices like the S&P 500 (it is the same story for the Dow Jones) are rising as volumes are declining, suggesting buyers’ participation in the stock market advance is very low. For a healthy stock market rally, any technical analyst will tell you that you need rising volume, not declining volume.
It’s Economics 101: rising demand pushes prices higher. In the case of the S&P 500, we have declining demand (low trading volume) and rising prices. Something doesn’t make sense here.
Looking at the economic data, it further suggests key stock indices are stretched. We continue to see the factors that are supposed to drive the U.S. economy to deteriorate.
Just look at the housing market. The number of new homes sold continues to decline. In January, the annual rate of new-home sales in the U.S. was 457,000 units. By July, it was down more than 10% … Read More
Earlier this month, Jeremy Siegal, a well-known “bull” on CNBC, took to the airwaves to predict the Dow Jones Industrial Average would go beyond 18,000 by the end of this year. Acknowledging overpriced valuations on the key stock indices are being ignored, he argued historical valuations should be taken with a grain of salt and nothing more. (Source: CNBC, July 2, 2014.)
Sadly, it’s not only Jeremy Siegal who has this point of view. Many other stock advisors who were previously bearish have thrown in the towel and turned bullish towards key stock indices—regardless of what the historical stock market valuation tools are saying.
We are getting to the point where today’s mentality about key stock indices—the sheer bullish belief stocks will only move higher—has surpassed the optimism that was prevalent in the stock market in 2007, before stocks crashed.
At the very core, when you pull away the stock buyback programs and the Fed’s tapering of the money supply and interest rates, there is one main factor that drives key stock indices higher or lower: corporate earnings. So, for key stock indices to continue to make new highs, corporate profits need to rise.
But there are two blatant threats to companies in the key stock indices and the profits they generate.
First, the U.S. economy is very, very weak. While we saw negative gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the first quarter of this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) just downgraded its U.S. economic projection. The IMF now expects the U.S. economy to grow by just 1.7% in 2014. (Source: International Monetary Fund, July 24, 2014.) One more … Read More
Investors poured $4.3 billion into the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE/SPY) last week, an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that tracks the S&P 500. For the week, ETFs tracking U.S. equities witnessed the most inflows in the last four weeks. (Source: Reuters, July 17, 2014.)
And as investors continue to inject vast sums of money into the stocks, stock valuations are at historical extremes. When I want to see how expensive the stock market is getting, I look at the S&P 500 Shiller P/E multiple (the value of stocks compared to what they earn adjusted for inflation)…and it’s screaming overvalued.
In July, the S&P 500 Shiller P/E stood at 25.96. That means that for every $1.00 a company makes, investors are willing to pay $25.96. The stock market has reached this P/E valuation (25.96) only seven percent of the time since 1881.
The number suggests the stock market is overvalued by 57%, according to its historical average of 16.55. (Source: Yale University web site, last accessed July 18, 2014.) The last time the S&P 500 Shiller P/E was above the current level was in October of 2007—just before one of the worst market sell-offs in history.
But this isn’t the only indicator suggesting the stock market is overvalued.
Another indicator of stock market valuation I look at is called the market capitalization-to-GDP multiple. Very simply put, this indicator is a gauge of the value of the stock market compared to the overall economy. It has been a good predictor of where key stock indices will head.
At the end of the first quarter of this year, the Wilshire 5000 Full Cap Price Index … Read More
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