Not much has changed since my last blog post, and I don’t have any revelations to share. Trump is still talking about the same issues he mentioned in his campaign. Real change happens slowly. But the drift is real, and that has unleashed animal spirits in the markets.
The gains to-date are not purely about valuation. Currently, 70% of companies have reported 4Q earnings, and 2/3 have beaten estimates, according to Forbes. Earnings are improving and the real question is how steep and how long the trend will run.
All things being equal, higher valuations increase risk. If price-to-earnings multiples expand faster than earnings growth, the risk of a correction increases. Without calling names, geopolitical risk seems to be an ongoing factor, so it seems a matter of time until a crisis scares the bejeepers out of the market and everyone scurries to cash.
A Buffet saying comes to mind, “Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” I’m sensing an increase in the greed factor as investors hate missing a rally. This might be a good time to think about harvesting positions you wouldn’t buy at today’s prices, and be very picky about your reinvestment options. Dry powder can go a long way in a correction.
Longer term, the table is set for sustained, and perhaps accelerating, earnings growth. In the 90’s, everyone thought the market would average 12% forever. Now the pundits agree 8% seems ambitious. When have the pundits ever gotten it right?
Finally, recognize that volatility is the price we pay for equity returns. Plan accordingly and stay the course.