Mar 282016
 

Is the Stock Market Overvalued?

My opinion is yes. This post will explain how I came to this conclusion. Thanks to reader Bricks for bringing up this topic.

We’ll be looking at the S&P 500 because it’s a popular index and there’s a lot of data available for it. 🙂 This index basically represents a basket of 500 large publicly traded companies in the United States. We can analyze the following 7 metrics to determine how cheap or expensive the market is. And naturally each of these ratios below can be applied to individual stocks as well. 😉

  1. Trailing P/E ratio
  2. Forward P/E ratio
  3. Forward P/S ratio
  4. Price vs Forward Earnings
  5. Shiller P/E Ratio
  6. Operating Margins
  7. EV / EBITDA ratio

Useful Ratios to Value the Stock Market

1) P/E Ratio – The price to earnings ratio, or sometimes known as the trailing P/E ratio or TTM P/E ratio, is a popular measurement to help determine the valuation of stocks. A low P/E ratio signals a cheap valuation. Historically the P/E ratio of stocks in both Canada and the U.S. hover between 10 to 20 most of the time. However, as of today the P/E ratio of the S&P 500 index is about 22, which signals it is overpriced relative to the norm. (image source)

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2) Forward P/E Ratio – Unlike the trailing P/E ratio, the forward P/E ratio uses projected future earnings. Of course nobody knows how much money companies will make in the future, but this metric provides a sentiment of how profitable the market feels about the next few earnings seasons. According to a FactSet report, the forward P/E ratio of the stock market is 16.5, which is above the long-term average of 14.2. So based on this data stocks are currently about 16% more expensive than what they should be.

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3) Forward P/S Ratio – The price to sales ratio compares the total market value to revenue. It usually moves in the same direction as the P/E ratio but can provide a smoother, more accurate depiction of the market’s valuation (see yellow line in chart above.) This ratio is currently over 1.6x for the S&P 500, which suggests the market is overpriced, even compared to 2008 levels.

4) Price Change vs Forward Earnings Change– The price of the stock market is mainly determined by its future profitability. But recently the price has diverged away from future expected earnings which suggests stock prices are too high.

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Notice what happened after the last time price diverged higher from the forward expected EPS in 2006 and 2007. 🙁

According to John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet, for the first quarter of 2016 it appears 92 companies have issued negative EPS (earnings per share) guidance and only 26 companies have issued positive EPS guidance. This depicts a rather bearish outlook. However, stock prices have not come down nearly enough to reflect these estimates. 😕

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Sep 272015
 

3 Year History

Usually when investors talk about expected market returns we like to look at historical averages. Over the past 115 years stock markets in the developed world delivered an annualized return of roughly 8.5%. This means we can probably assume that a normal range would be somewhere between 6% and 11%.

I use TD as my discount brokerage at the moment. It has a useful tool to help me gauge my portfolio performance over the years. Most of my stocks are held in registered accounts such as TFSAs or RRSPs, which have preferential tax benefits. 🙂 Here is a quick overview of how my securities in those accounts have performed over the last 3 years. The green line represents my portfolio performance.

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As we can see my overall stocks have achieved a 7.33% annualized rate of return since Sept 2012. This is not that surprising and falls within the 6% to 11% range of a normal market return. 🙂 Also since I can’t use margin to borrow and invest inside these registered accounts, none of my stocks in this chart uses any leverage.

The blue line represents the Canadian stock market index, which has only returned 8.65% over the last 3 years, or 2.8% annualized. This means I technically beat the market here in Canada by more than 4% a year, which is just peachy keen! 😀 But that’s probably because I hold some U.S. stocks in my RRSP and TFSA.

The purple line represents the S&P 500 index in the U.S. The graph shows it has climbed 80.22% since 2012. But keep in mind that this factors in the currency exchange. Otherwise, the return in $USD is closer to 47%, which is still pretty dope. The U.S. currency has become very strong over the past couple of years. Any Canadian who held U.S. stock would have seen double-digit returns even if the price of their stocks didn’t change domestically in U.S. dollars. 😀

Here are a few things I learned from this performance chart. I’ll be keeping these things in mind going forward.

  • It’s possible to pick and choose individual stocks without underperforming the market index, as long as you have the discipline to buy and hold most of the time.
  • Canadian stocks rely too much on commodity prices. Whenever oil and metal prices fall the market really struggles. 🙁
  • Buy some foreign currencies to hold investments that are denominated in those currencies.
  • Diversify globally. Holding a Canadian equity index fund, like the Vanguard Canada All Cap Index ETF, (symbol VCN,) would have barely even beat inflation over the past 3 years, and even the past 5 years.

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Apr 162015
 

Canadian Farmland Values Up Again

Okay, it’s that time of year again when the national agency, Farm Credit Canada, release its farmland value report about the previous year’s farming landscape. As it turns out in 2014 the average Canadian farmland price increased 14.3%. 😀

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Meanwhile residential real estate prices increased only 5.2%, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Of course the most strategic way to invest in a portfolio of properties is to be exposed to both residential, and agricultural real estate. Farmland prices are assessed using recent comparable sales. These sales must be arm’s-length transactions. The highest price increase was an incredible 18.7% in Saskatchewan, the land of living skies. The full report is on FCC’s site.

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As luck would have it I decided to buy some Sask farmland a few years ago. 😉 Back then I had blogged about why land in Saskatchewan was the bee’s knees because of how undervalued it was compared to other provinces and neighboring States.

 

The Greatest Advantage of Real Estate Over Stocks: LEVERAGE

I leveraged 8:1 to secure my position as a farm owner. This meant I borrowed $7 of the bank’s money for every $1 of my own money to invest. So an increase in Saskatchewan’s farmland value of 18.7% last year actually means a redonkulous 150% rate of return on my capital. Not too shabby. 😉

My farmland was worth about $1210/acre last year, so after this year’s adjustment it should be worth $226/acre more now. Awesome sauce! 😉 $226 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to get excited about, but since I own 310 acres it all adds up pretty quick. 🙂

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Investing in farmland isn’t for everyone but hay, maybe I have it in my jeans. 😀

As much as I like to feel wealthy on paper, when one particular asset class consistently outperforms all the other ones I’m faced with an asset allocation problem. Farmland now represents about two-thirds of my financial investments (all assets except primary residence.) This means I am not very diversified anymore. 🙁 Although I realize this must be the ultimate first world problem, lol. 😛

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