A version of this post first appeared in The Felder Report PREMIUM.
We are now entering earnings season once again. Pre-announcements have been the second-worst seen over the past decade.
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) April 1, 2016
This has analysts lowering estimates. In fact, they’ve been lowered so far quarterly earnings now look to fall all the way back to 2009 levels.
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) April 2, 2016
For the trailing twelve months earnings are now back to 2011 levels…
2015 S&P 500 GAAP earnings were $86.48, which is slightly lower than 2011, when the S&P 500 finished the year at 1257 (14.5x earnings)
— Scott Krisiloff (@Skrisiloff) March 30, 2016
…even while stocks remain 75% above their own levels from back then. Taken together you get a price-to-earnings ratio of 24, higher than any other time over the past several years.
And there it is: Now officially the highest p/e (24) in years for SPX pic.twitter.com/KKLuP0wGmA
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) April 3, 2016
It should go without saying that extreme valuations and falling earnings are not a bullish recipe for stocks.
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) April 4, 2016
So the fundamentals are not supportive of higher prices. What then has been driving them higher in recent weeks?
"When stocks are rising for no better reason than that they have risen, the greater fool is at work."
— La nuit sera calme (@NuitSeraCalme) April 1, 2016
And the greater fools are none other than the companies themselves…
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) March 30, 2016
…for now. If earnings don’t turn around soon (and corporate spreads narrow), it’s going to be hard to maintain the current pace of buyback activity.
— historysquared (@historysquared) March 31, 2016
Just by glancing at the chart above it’s easy to see that companies have been the greatest fools of recent market cycles, expanding their buyback activity at the highest valuations and reducing them during the most attractive ones, hardly a legitimate theory of investment value. This cycle appears to be no different.