By Mark Hulbert, MarketWatch.
Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that risks are high. You may want to consider selling some of your stock holdings and building up cash.
- Price/earnings ratio. Calculated by dividing stock price by earnings per share, this is perhaps the most widely followed of all valuation ratios. Based on the previous 12 months’ earnings, the S&P 500’s current P/E ratio is 18.6, which is higher than those that prevailed at 24 of the 35 bull market tops since 1900. (Data before 1957 are for the S&P Composite Stock Index, since the S&P 500 didn’t exist yet.)
- Cyclically adjusted P/E ratio. This is the version of the P/E championed by Yale University Professor Robert Shiller, the recent Nobel laureate in economics. It is calculated by dividing a company’s stock price by the average of its inflation-adjusted earnings of the preceding decade. For the S&P 500, this ratio currently stands at 25.6, which is higher than what prevailed at 29 of the 35 tops since 1900.
- Dividend yield. This is the percentage of a company’s stock price that is represented by its total annual dividends. Since this yield tends to fall as prices rise, and vice versa, the market should register some of its lowest readings near its tops. The S&P 500’s yield currently stands at 2.0%, which is lower than the comparable yields that prevailed at all but five of the bull-market tops since 1900.
- Price/sales ratio. This is calculated by dividing a company’s stock price by its per-share sales. Though it is lesser known, it still is championed by many investors because it is based on data that are less susceptible to manipulation than earnings. For the S&P 500, the price/sales ratio currently stands at 1.6, which is higher than the comparable readings that prevailed at all but two of the bull market tops since 1955, which is how far back data are available.
- Price/book ratio. This is another lesser-known valuation indicator, calculated by dividing a company’s stock price by its per-share book value—an accounting measure of net worth. For the S&P 500, this ratio currently stands at 2.7, which is higher than all but five of the 28 bull-market tops since the mid-1920s, which is how far back data are available.
- “Q” ratio. This indicator is based on research conducted by the late James Tobin, the 1981 Nobel laureate in economics. It is similar to the price/book ratio, except that book value is substituted by the replacement cost of assets.
Mr. Tobin thought this to be superior since he considered replacement cost to be better reflection of a company’s net worth than book value, which is based on assets’ original cost — no matter how far in the past those assets were acquired.
Mark Hulbert is the founder of Hulbert Financial Digest in Chapel Hill, N.C. He has been tracking the advice of more than 160 financial newsletters since 1980. Follow him on Twitter @MktwHulbert.
Extract from Marketwatch