Why A Major Financial Collapse Is Imminent

And by just about any measure that you can possibly imagine, stocks are massively overvalued right now.

For instance, just check out the chart posted below.  It comes from Doug Short, and it shows that the ratio of corporate equity prices to GDP has only been higher one time since 1950.  That was in 2000 just before the dotcom bubble burst…

The Buffett Indicator from Doug Short

Let’s take a look at another chart.  This one comes from Phoenix Capital Research, and it shows that the CAPE ratio (cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio) has rarely been higher.  In fact, the only times that it has been higher we have seen stock market crashes immediately afterwards…

CAPE - Phoenix Capital Research

Yale economics professor Robert Shiller is also deeply concerned about the CAPE ratio

I think that compared with history, US stocks are overvalued. One way to assess this is by looking at the CAPE (cyclically adjusted P/E) ratio that I created with John Campbell, now at Harvard, 25 years ago. The ratio is defined as the real stock price (using the S&P Composite Stock Price Index deflated by the CPI) divided by the ten-year average of real earnings per share. We have found this ratio to be a good predictor of subsequent stock market returns, especially over the long run. The CAPE ratio has recently been around 27, which is quite high by US historical standards. The only other times it has been that high or higher were in 1929, 2000, and 2007—all moments before market crashes.

But the CAPE ratio is not the only metric I watch. In my book Irrational Exuberance (3rd Ed., Princeton 2015) I discuss several metrics that help judge what’s going on in the market. These include my stock market confidence indices. One of the indicators in that series is based on a single question that I have asked individual and institutional investors over the years along the lines of, “Do you think the stock market is overvalued, undervalued, or about right?” Lately, what I call “valuation confidence” captured by this question has been on a downward trend, and for individual investors recently reached its lowest point since the stock market peak in 2000.

Other valuation indicators produce similar results.  This next chart is another one from Doug Short, and it shows the average of four of his favorite valuation indicators.  As you can see, there is only one other time when stocks have been more overvalued than they are today according to the average of his four favorite indicators, and that was just before the stock market crashed when the dotcom bubble burst…

Four Valuation Indicators - Doug Short

Another one of the things that indicates that a financial bubble is happening is the level of margin debt.  Whenever margin debt has gone over 2.25% of GDP a stock market crash has always followed, and today it is far above that level. 

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