Scary Long-Term Outlook for US Equity Returns

According to a recent Mark Hulbert article for MarketWatch, the "Stock market is doomed to rise only 3.5% per year over the next decade." I do not put much stock in long-term market prognostications, but I do believe in long-term fundamental analysis - and basic math, and Hulbert makes a compelling case.

Hulbert's analysis is straightforward. Stock prices are a function of both earnings and price/earnings ratios. Earnings growth is a function of sales growth and increasing profit margins. Unfortunately, profit margins are already stretched to the limit, which leaves sales growth as the only viable source of long-term earnings growth. Hulbert contends that sales growth will likely lag GDP growth, which would be hard-pressed to exceed 3.5% per year in the mature US economy over the next 10 years. That leaves expanding price/earnings ratios, which are already very high.

When you put it all together, the return outlook for stocks over the next decade in the US is weak. If you consider that profit margins and price/earnings ratios might contract to more normal levels, and throw in one or two long-overdue recessions, the long-term return prospects for US stocks could look downright scary.

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About Brian Johnson

I have been an investment professional for over 30 years. I worked as a fixed income portfolio manager, personally managing over $13 billion in assets for institutional clients. I was also the President of a financial consulting and software development firm, developing artificial intelligence based forecasting and risk management systems for institutional investment managers. I am now a full-time proprietary trader in options, futures, stocks, and ETFs using both algorithmic and discretionary trading strategies. In addition to my professional investment experience, I designed and taught courses in financial derivatives for both MBA and undergraduate business programs on a part-time basis for a number of years.
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One Response to Scary Long-Term Outlook for US Equity Returns

  1. Pingback: Negative US Equity Returns Over the Next Decade | Trader Edge

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