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Carol Loomis - Is It Time To Buy Stocks?


Parsad
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Carol Loomis discusses the metric both Warren and Prem have mentioned in the last few years...stock market value versus U.S. GNP.  What once stood at 190% in March of 2000 hit 75% in January 2009.  I'm sure some will argue that GNP is overstated, or that reversal to the mean usually means overshooting the current 75%, but anyway you slice it, stocks are cheaper today than at anytime in the past.

 

http://money.cnn.com/2009/02/04/magazines/fortune/buffett_metric.fortune/index.htm

 

If you take that one step further, market yields in relation to the risk-free yield of treasuries, is probably the widest we've seen in several decades.  Cheers!

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If you add the mass retirement of the baby boomers to all of the current woe, there is still a significant downside potential on the overall markets.  However, if you are investing in solid companies at excellent prices, the overall market does not matter. FFH has given us a great example.

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The consumer has driven the US economy for the past 25 years.  Now I believe we are entering a period where the consumer will start to save more.  Part of this due to high debt.  But the baby boomers will now start switching significantly into savings mode.  This will cause a drag on company earnings and growth for many years.  I am still unsure how this will impact the emerging markets.  Obviously the direction of the US market has an impact globally, but the emerging markets are also becoming more self sufficient.  Will we start to see the emerging markets go in a different direction than the US and the rest of the western world?

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Where do you get the data for total market capitalization? OTC+Nadaq+NYSE+AMEX ?

 

How do you get the 70-80% number range? Is this including low interest rates and above average ROE(12%+)?  How can this translate into a valuation for American Inc?   

 

I guess these are questions for Buffett but does anyone here understand this number range?

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Over the long term I am not sure the US consumer moving into savings mode is going to negatively affect economic growth.  To be sure certain areas of the economy would benefit from such a movement such as banking, financial management, and health care (due to the aging).  One of the most simple, and incredible statistics I have seen is the effect of changes in the behaviour of US consumer on savings and as a result banks holdings.  100 Million working people save $1000 this winter (maybe from gas savings alone); becomes $100 B.  Save $10k this year begets 1 Trillion; save 20k over 3 years begets 2 Trillion.  That is an awful lot of liquidity to invest. 

 

Add in Europe and NA and the dollars saved, and available to invest becomes enormous, even in the context of the 3 Trillion Bill Gross wants governments to spend.  And we beget another boom in something or other. 

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Keep in mind that the law of large numbers has been systematically making the ratio less sensitive, and that the GNPs measurement has changed over time. The 75% cutoff may need to be lower.

 

Over the next 6 months GNP is projected to decline. For the trend to continue, the decline in stock price would actually need to accelerate.

 

The graph suggests a buy point at 50%, or less (35% over WWII). To get there the 'average' stock price needs to fall at least 62% [(50-130)/130] from the average 'peak'. Normal curve tails suggests there were will be some big winners & losers, & a way to quantify how many. Bear Sterns, Lehmans, etc. were losers, the equivalent offseting winners are still something of a mystery. 

 

A laymans look would suggest that except for a very few stocks, its still too early to buy.

 

SD

 

 

 

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Any clue why WeB used the 70-80% mark?

Am I wrong to assume Warren's doin' a bit of Technical Analysis?

 

How do you get the 70-80% number range? Is this including low interest rates and above average ROE(12%+)?  How can this translate into a valuation for American Inc?

 

No, WB is not doing technical analysis; more like macroeconomic analysis.

 

What I think he does is applying a multiple (based on normalised long term interest rates) to normalised corporate earnings (expressed as a percentage of GNP).

 

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2006/08/28/business/28wages_chart.html

 

Using the above chart of corporate pretax profits to GDP as a guide, one could take a stab at normalised listed company earnings at about 6% of GDP. (WB would probably use FCF as a percentage of GNP but let's just for argument's sake assume that both percentages are about the same.) Applying a 12x multiple (equivalent to an 8.3% FCF yield) to this 6% gives us a fair value for market cap/GNP of 72%.

 

My numbers are very rough guestimates but I believe it provides a fair approximation/explanation for why 70% is the magic number.

 

 

 

 

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Sharper, The only two metrices of this equation that have any effect are profits and stock prices.  Once the biggest companies take their writeoffs, do their layoffs, and clear out inventory (where applicable), their profits will recover.

 

So:  Layoffs, writedowns first; then profits increase; ratio decreases to the 50-60% range, then the ratio increases as stock prices slowly start to catch up to profits. 

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Note that Buffett has stated in the 50-60's that 50-60% of GNP was fair, and he said in the late 90's that 70-80% was more appropriate now.  He did not clarify why, but I don't think it takes much imagination to come up with a few pretty obvious reasons that explain at least of chunk of this.

1) US business composition

2) % GNP delivered by public vs. privat companies

 

But, as the author so blindly fails to call out, Buffett's article is about US Stocks vs. Treasuries... 75% of GNP is blazing cheap given THAT particular alternative.

 

Ben

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