As I write this, the 10-yr produce is about 4.2% and the S&P 500 is trading at 21.8 times reported income and 14.6 times forward cash flows. In recessions, analysts cannot forecast forward profits well so we’ll get rid of the forward P/E. Using reported earnings and plugging the results into the Fed model, which includes well-documented problems, the market is undervalued. One of my other favorite guidelines in looking for a bottom is the valuation of the investment banks. The investment-banking institutions have a tendency to bottom out at a price to book ratio of just one 1 during intervals of economic stress.
The major investment banks such as Morgan Stanley (MS) and Merrill Lynch (MER) are now trading at 1.3-1.4 times publications, down from about 1.5-1.8 in late April. Lehman Brothers (LEH), which has had well-publicized troubles, trades at a discount to book value now, as are some other brokers such as E-Trade (ETFC). The trouble is, of course, we don’t quite understand how good the reserve value figure really is as there could be further write-offs coming down the street.
Despite these mixed signals, the marketplace might not get screamingly cheap even as we are likely in an interval where the market moves sideways (see prior comment). Predicated on these considerations, I’d rate the valuation metric to be neutral to mildly bullish. I love to keep an eye on the trouble spots of the economy in order to time the submit the marketplace. The troubled industries in this recession are financial and real estate. Employment is another area that inevitably falls off in economic slowdowns. The financial and investment banks may be near levels where they stabilize but these stocks and the other problem groups remain underperforming without result in sight.
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