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Stock-market Valuations Are High and Bearish According to 'the Best Single Measure'

April 22, 2024
minute read

The Buffett Indicator, a metric Warren Buffett regards as a prime gauge of market valuations, has surged to levels surpassing even those seen during the peak of the dot-com bubble in 2000, as illustrated by the accompanying chart. Despite this alarming trend, I maintain reservations about forecasting a market downturn within the upcoming year.

This apparent contradiction between heightened valuations and short-term market predictions is not unique to the Buffett Indicator. Most valuation metrics, including those discussed further in this analysis, offer little insight into immediate market movements. Instead, their true predictive power emerges over extended timeframes, typically spanning several years.

Consequently, while the Buffett Indicator may paint a bleak picture for the market's trajectory in the next twelve months, its forecasts gain traction when projecting over the coming decade, suggesting a probable downturn from current levels.

A visual representation of this concept can be found in the chart, illustrating the correlation between the Buffett Indicator's predictive ability and varying investment horizons, from one year to a decade. Notably, at the one-year mark, the indicator's explanatory power is negligible, with an r-squared value near zero. However, this value escalates steadily as the investment horizon lengthens, indicating a stronger relationship between the indicator and future market performance over longer periods.

The Buffett Indicator's predictive behavior mirrors that of other valuation metrics referenced herein. Each exhibits a similar pattern of diminished short-term forecasting accuracy, but increased reliability over more extended timelines. Consequently, while uncertainty clouds the market's direction in the immediate future, indications point towards subpar returns over the ensuing decade.

Drawing on an analogy from Ben Inker of GMO, likening the market to a leaf caught in a hurricane, we can appreciate the unpredictability of short-term movements. Yet, akin to gravity ultimately guiding the leaf to the ground, long-term market trends tend to align with valuation fundamentals, suggesting a downward trajectory in the years ahead.

Further reinforcing this pessimistic outlook are the assessments of additional valuation indicators outlined in the accompanying table. Across the board, these metrics align in signaling caution, supporting the notion of below-average market returns over the next decade.

Bryan Curtis
Eric Ng
John Liu
Editorial Board
Bryan Curtis
Adan Harris
Managing Editor
Cathy Hills
Associate Editor

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