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Thereʼs a bone of contention among investors: Are U.S. equity values about right or far too high?
Stock market bulls can find reassurance in the equity risk premium, which suggests stocks are valued fairly or slightly expensive. In contrast, bears may find confirmation in other standard valuation ratios – such as market capitalization-to-GDP, Tobin’s Q, the CAPE ratio and market cap-to-corporate profits – that suggest stock prices are substantially overvalued.
Who is right? And what variables matter most in assessing the risk of major shocks in broad equity markets?
By simply looking at the Gordon Growth Model, we can see that equity prices are sensitive to the equity risk premium (the real equity yield minus the real bond yield) as well as some definitions of the bond risk premium (e.g., the real bond yield minus real GDP growth) and the equality risk premium (which we define as the difference between real GDP growth and real dividend growth). This decomposition can help illuminate how macro events affect equity prices.
We take a deep dive into these issues in our recent Research piece, “Three Dogs That Did Not Bark: Risk Premia and Stock Market Shocks.”
A mean-reversion scenario could set off the three dogs – the equity risk premium, the bond risk premium and the equality risk premium. Indeed, probabilities of large stock market shocks depend critically on whether valuation metrics endure or revert to historical means.
Over a 10-year horizon and under a “fairly valued” regime, where valuations stand firm, our analysis suggests the probability of a 50% sell-off is 59% and that of a 70% sell-off is 57%.[ii]
Under a full mean-reverting regime, our analysis suggests a wholly different story: An earnings yield of -1% results in very large drawdown probabilities over 10 years. A 50% sell-off has a 72% probability, and a 70% sell-off has a 69% probability.
What these simple calculations illustrate is the potential for large surprises at current valuations should these measures revert to historical norms. That could take a long time, if ever, to materialize.
In the meantime, watching the dogs carefully could prove a useful exercise.
For an in-depth discussion of this topic, read our Research article, “Three Dogs That Did Not Bark: aria-label="Read more about Risk Premia and Stock Market Shocks"."
Jamil Baz is PIMCO’s head of client solutions and analytics; Josh Davis is global head of client analytics; and Normane Gillmann is a quantitative research analyst.
Global Head of Risk Management
Quantitative Research Analyst
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Statements concerning financial market trends are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. Forecasts, estimates and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary research and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are appropriate for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for the long term, especially during periods of downturn in the market. Investors should consult their investment professional prior to making an investment decision. Outlook and strategies are subject to change without notice.