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Stealth Bubble

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    December 2, 2013

    A subscriber writes: Hello Carl. As a long-time subscriber (going back more than 10 years), I have a lot of respect for your historical P/E charts. However, when you recently wrote that stocks are high but not in a bubble, I’m wondering if perhaps you are not considering the stealth bubble discussed by John Hussman. (Click here to read Hussman article.)

    (This is an excerpt from recent blogs for Decision Point subscribers.)


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    Carl’s Response: I don’t disagree with those, like John, who have different metrics to define a bubble. Personally, I don’t like what is going on one bit. Strictly speaking, I define a bubble as when prices have been bid up way beyond normal valuations — like what is happening (again!) in the real estate market.

    Prices are at an overvalued P/E of 20. That is sufficient reason for a bear market to begin. But I don’t consider it to be a bubble. (You say tomato . . .) Looking again at last week’s chart, we can see that, once prices reach the overvalued level, forward progress is normally halted and sharp corrections are the norm. The idea of a “stealth” bubble is not lost on me. The worst bear market ever (1929 to 1932) began once the market P/E reached 20, but the runup in prices was facilitated by a margin requirement of only 10%, certainly a major factor not seen on the chart. Today we have QEternity lurking behind the price line.




    This chart shows the S&P 500 Index (black line) in relation to its normal P/E range. A P/E of 10 is undervalue, a P/E of 20 is overvalue, and a P/E of 15 is considered to be fair value.

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About The Author – Carl Swenlin, Decision Point

    Carl SwenlinCarl Swenlin is a self-taught technical analyst, who has been involved in market analysis since 1981. A pioneer in the creation of online technical resources, he is president and founder of DecisionPoint.com, a premier technical analysis website specializing in stock market indicators, charting, and focused research reports. Mr. Swenlin is a Member of the Market Technicians Association.