Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's only worth what someone else will pay for it

One of my pet peeves has been all the talking heads... including the President this morning... trying to tell me (and you) that the valuation of the stock market is amazingly low and needs to be bought at these levels because it's 50% lower than it was last year.

Let's have a little lesson on valuation:

* The long-term Price/Earnings ratio for the stock market is 10x.
* The trough market valuation in the 1980-82 recession (as well as other recessions) was 6.8x earnings.
* The earnings estimates for the S&P 500 have dropped almost $2 over the past week.
* The current forward P/E ratio for the S&P 500 is 11.3x

What's that all that mean?

* Assuming earnings do not drop further, the market is still currently valued at 13% above median long-term valuations.
* Assuming earnings do not drop further, the market is 40% above trough valuations. That means we could see the S&P get close to 400 and the Dow get close to 4000.
* My assumptions include this recession/whatever-you-want-to-call-this-pain not being any worse than the 1980-82 downturn and EARNINGS NOT DROPPING ANY FURTHER.

You might have picked up on the fact that the assumption that earnings will not drop any further is a big stretch for me. And if earnings do drop... then what? Well, if earnings drop by 25% from here? Hmmmm. That means that the forward P/E would currently be 15x... meaning it would be 55% above the trough valuation.

Sleep well tonight.

1 comment:

Cooldude said...

Patty, shouldn't the balance sheet be far more important than earnings in the deflationary bust we find ourselves in. The important thing to realize is that while earnings decine in a defationary bust the liabilities stay the same....hence PE ratios do not work, just like they did not work in Japan in the 1990s.