The stock market is stretched to double tech-bubble extremes, according to one measure — here's why investors should be very scared of the implications

trader surprised shocked upset

  • Leuthold Group has sounded the alarm on a valuation metric that shows the S&P 500 is twice as expensive as it was at the peak of the tech bubble.
  • This development could have large implications for stock investors of all types, particularly value traders who make their living by finding discounts in the market.

With the stock market within shouting distance of a new all-time high, traders are readying their champagne bottles.

Just don’t tell them about the eye-popping statistic just published by reputed research outfit Leuthold Group, lest you spoil their fun.

Leuthold has taken a fairly traditional valuation measure — the price-to-sales ratio (P/S) — and added a twist. Rather than take the market cap-weighted P/S for the benchmark S&P 500, the firm has calculated the median P/S for every company in the index.

And as you can see from the red line below, the historical chart is jarring. Going by the median P/S measure, the S&P 500 is actually twice as expensive as it was at the peak of the tech bubble.

Screen Shot 2018 08 08 at 8.01.50 AM

Leuthold has already sounded the alarm in the past about the blue line, which is the market cap-weighted version of the P/S metric. The firm previously considered it the „scariest chart in our database“ — but it appears to be a distant number two now.

„The addition transforms an already alarming chart into one that’s almost unfit for a family-friendly publication,“ Doug Ramsey, Leuthold’s chief investment officer, wrote in a client note. „The nature of this market’s overvaluation is very different than in 2000.“

It’s different in the sense that the overvaluation is more widespread — and the implications of that fact are potentially devastating. When the stock market does face its next armaggedon stage, there will be nowhere to hide.

When the broader market got crushed in the dotcom era after the tech bubble burst, that was largely because of the massive concentration of positions in the sector. Traders could’ve theoretically protected themselves by hiding in more fairly valued industries. Investors today have no such luxury.

„Overvaluation in 2000 was highly concentrated,“ said Ramsey. „Today it is pervasive.“

The lack of comparatively cheap opportunities in the market right now is a particularly troublesome development for so-called value investors, who are left searching for bargains that simply don’t exist.

In a more concentrated market, value investors could position themselves to outperform by patiently waiting in cheaper areas for the more crowded, pricy segments to collapse. With no inexpensive areas to speak of, that strategy becomes much more difficult.

„This breadth of overvaluation certainly helps explain today’s level of despondence among value managers,“ said Ramsey. „The long period of penance has not rewarded them with any truly cheap pockets of the stock market — like it did in 1999 and 2000. They still stand to lose serious money in the next bear market, but their results should be much better than the throngs who’ve decided to put their equity investing on auto-pilot.“

SEE ALSO: One dirty word keeps popping up as Wall Street weighs the next market crash — and it should strike fear into the hearts of investors everywhere

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Source: Business insider

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