Do Valuations Matter?

MarketsETF Trends

By David Lebovitz via Iris.xyz

The S&P 500 has had an impressive start to the year, rising over 4% year-to-date with only three days of negative performance.

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However, as the equity market has moved higher, investors have become increasingly concerned about valuation. While it is difficult to ignore the fact that the S&P 500 forward P/E ratio currently sits at 18.5x, well above its 25-year average of 16.0x, we believe elevated valuations may be justified for three reasons. First, 2018 earnings growth is expected to come in around 15%, suggesting investors will be compensated for paying a higher price, and second, inflation and interest rates are both below their long-term averages. In an environment of low rates, low inflation, and healthy earnings, perhaps it is appropriate for stock market valuations to be above average?

Finally, valuation is not a great predictor of short-term returns. As we show on page 6 of the Guide to the Markets, valuation tells you very little about what will happen over the next year, but a decent amount about what to expect over the next five years. For those who are still skeptical about equities given current valuations, it is important to remember that bull markets tend to go out with a bang, rising by an average of 26% during their final 12 months. This makes sitting on the sidelines expensive, particularly in a world of low interest rates.

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