If you follow the financial news, it feels like the stock market is moving higher and higher…a situation in which investors often feel they are missing out.
But the reality of the situation is very different. So far this year, almost eight full months in, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up only three percent.
Would you buy stocks with the Dow Jones trading at 17,100, near a record-high price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple and a record-low dividend yield? I wouldn’t. Hence, the question changes from “Am I missing out?” to “Is it worth the risk?”
On Monday, the chief market strategist at BMO Capital Markets said, “Longer term we are in the camp that believes U.S. equities are the place to be. They are the most stable asset in the world.” (Source: “Bull market will charge higher for 15 more years says strategist,” Yahoo! Finance, August 18, 2014.)
The belief that “stocks are the place to be” has gone mainstream now. And that’s very dangerous.
The reality of the situation: (1) stocks are trading at very high historical levels when measured by the P/E multiple and dividend yield; (2) the Fed is stopping its money printing program; (3) investors are pulling money out of the stock market; (4) consumer spending is tumbling; (5) stock advisors have remained too bullish for too long; and (6) the chances of a 20% stock market correction are very high.
According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), between April and June, mutual funds that invest in U.S. stock markets witnessed net withdrawals of $19.1 billion. While July’s monthly figures are not updated just yet, looking at the weekly data, it appears July was another month when investors sold more than $18.0 billion worth of U.S. stock market mutual funds. Investors have been pulling money out of stocks for three months now. (Source: Investment Company Institute, August 20, 2014.)
The optimism and complacency towards the stock market is extreme. Those who remember 2007 know this very well; stock advisors were calling for continuation of the stock market rally back then, too. Instead, we got a crash.