US stock markets hit another all-time high on Friday.
The S&P 500 is nearing 2,600 and the Dow is over 23,300.
In fact, US stocks have only been more expensive two times since 1881.
According to Yale economist Robert Shiller’s Cyclically Adjusted Price to Earnings (CAPE) ratio – which is the market price divided by ten years’ average earnings – the S&P 500 is above 31. The last two times the market reached such a high valuation were just before the Great Depression in 1929 and the tech bubble in 1999-2000.
Some of the blame for high valuation goes to the so-called “FANG” stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), whose average P/E is now around 130.
But there’s something different about today’s bull market…
Simply put, everything is going up at once.
Leading up to the tech bubble bursting, investors would dump defensive stocks (thereby pushing down their valuations) to buy high-flying tech stocks like Intel and Cisco – the result was a valuation dispersion.
The S&P cap-weighted index (which was influenced by the high valuations of the S&P’s most expensive tech stocks) traded at 30.6 times earnings. The equal-weighted S&P index (which, as the name implies, weights each constituent stock equally, regardless of size) traded at 20.7 times.
Today, despite sky-high FANG valuations, the S&P market-cap weighted and equal-weighted indexes both trade at around 22 times earnings.
Thanks to the trillions of dollars printed by the Federal Reserve (and the popularity of passive investing, which we’ll discuss in a moment), investors are buying everything.
In a recent report, investment bank Morgan Stanley wrote:
We say this not as hyperbole, but based on a quantitative perspective… Dispersions in valuations and growth rates are among the lowest in the last 40 years; stocks are at their most idiosyncratic since 2001.
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