Stock Market Projections

by Investment U

Stock Market Projections

The Investment U E-Letter: Issue # 435

Monday, May 9, 2005 Stock Market Projections... Advice for the Next Two Decades

By Dr. Steve Sjuggerud, President, Investment USo what are YOU expecting? I'm serious what are you expecting your stocks to return to you over the next 20 years? This question is enormously important If you're expecting 20% a year, then your $100,000 today will turn into nearly $4 million dollars in 20 years. However, if you're expecting 5% a year, you'll have a total profit of $165,000. What a difference!

So what's your answer? Stocks have returned double-digit average annual gains for the last quarter-century. So is that your guess? Double-digit percentage gains?

And then based on your guess, what are you going to do with your money?

These are the big questions. Ed Easterling has some answers on stock market projections.

Today, with Ed's help, we'll try to answer what stocks COULD return over the next 20 years. And based on those projections and advice, we'll try to answer how to invest in the stock market for the next two decades. Let's get started

Ed Easterling's 20-Year Betand Projections on the Market

I just returned from vacation today, and in my mail stack was a new book from Ed Easterling, called Unexpected Returns. Ed and I have corresponded a bit. One thing that Ed said to me that hit home was: "It's not easy to get rational messages to individual investors."

At first, that sounds strange. But it's exactly right

You are bombarded with investment advice every day. But it always comes with an agenda-your broker would never tell you to sell, for example, because then you might take your money from him and give it to another broker to invest with. As another example, CNBC and Money magazine are always optimistic about stocks, because all their advertisers and guests make more money when the stock market is going up.

So Ed wrote a book with a lot of rational ideas in it (god forbid). The first idea I thumbed to in the book is incredibly important. Everyone who invests in the stock market should know this. But NOBODY PAYS ATTENTION TO IT. Here it is:

Ed investigated 20-year periods in the stock market. And what he found was extremely important

In plain English: If you bought when stocks were cheap, your 20-year return could easily be double-digit annual returns, like we saw for the two decades of the '80s and '90s. And if you buy when stocks are expensive - like now - you don't make any money in stocks.

The price-to-earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is what Ed used to define "expensive" or "cheap." The worst 20-year returns started with an average stock market P/E of 19. And the best 20-year returns started with an average P/E of 10.

For reference, today's stock market P/E is 20. And back in 1981, the market's P/E was less than 10.

Ed divided the 20-year return results into 10 groups, based on returns. And as the table here shows, the lowest returns for the next 20 years came when stocks were expensive - when the P/E averaged 19 at the beginning of the period. And the best returns came when stocks were the cheapest. Take a look at chart below:

Stock Market Projections: Chart 1

If the relationship isn't clear above, here's another way to see it

Stock Market Projections: Chart 2

The chart shows that the lower the P/E ratio when you buy, the more money you make over the next 20 years. So simply put, you don't want to pay too much up front. What does this mean as far as stock market projections? If you want to earn double-digit returns in the stock market, you need to buy when stocks are cheap, as Ed's chart shows. And right now, they're not.

In the book, talking about stock markets today, Ed says "High P/E ratios, low dividend yields, and low inflation reflect an environment similar to the early stages of secular bear markets The current financial conditions indicate either low or negative returns from stocks and bonds."

Ouch now those are some unexpected returns.

So All Projections Aside, Where To Invest From Here? Time to Row, Not Sail

"During secular bull markets, the investment strategy of 'sailing' by buying and holding stocks and bonds can be very effective. During secular bear markets, the investment strategy of 'rowing' with absolute return strategies can be very effective."

For the decades of the '80s and '90s, we had the wind at our backs when it came to investing in the stock market. We invested by simply sailing downwind - no ocean skills required. Stocks and bonds were going up nearly year after year. All we had to do was put up our sail - all we had to do was get in the markets with our hard-earned money.

Now the wind is in our faces and the projections are unclear. Putting up a sail (buy and hold) with no other strategy will only push us in the wrong direction. Instead, Ed says, we've got to row.

With rowing: "The progress of the boat occurs because of the action of the person doing the rowing. Similarly, in 'absolute return' investing, the progress and profits of the portfolio derive from the activities of the investment manager, rather than the broader market movements."

It's time to row, as Ed says. You've got to be aware that stocks and bonds are expensive by historic standards. So you've got to be an active investor (a "rower") instead of a passive investor (a "sailor"). And you've got to pursue money-making strategies that can work if the markets are stacked against you, as they are now.

I agree with Ed so far. But then his bias comes out

Ed is in the hedge fund industry. So his preferred type of investment over the next 20 years is hedge funds. I'll agree that hedge funds are appropriate for part of the portfolio of high-net-worth investors.

But as you know, I'm interested in several investments that are uncorrelated to the stock market, as well. Readers of my newsletter know I've been writing for years about investing in timberland, commodities and gold coins, among other non-stock investments. Still, I like what he has to say.




 Hope for the Best in the Stock Market ...ButYou ought to be prepared for it. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Let's hope Ed is wrong. But make sure you plan your investments (and spread them outside of stocks), just in case he's right!


Remember when Ed said "it's not easy to get rational messages to individual investors"? Ultimately, Ed's table and chart above are clearly rational if you pay too much up front, you can't make big profits. And if you can buy cheap, you can make good money - over the course of the next two decades.

The rational message today is: Chances are, you won't make much money in the stock market over the next 20 years. Based on history as Ed shows it in the table, the projection is that stocks could give a total return of 3.2% a year over the next 20 years. Yikes. That number will likely be off by a few percent in either direction. But are you ready for an annual total return on stocks of between 0% and 6% over the next 20 years.

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