As U.S. investors take more risks to increase their returns, junk bonds, real estate, and U.S. large-cap growth stocks have become inundated with investors, writes Nir Kaissar in a Bloomberg Opinion piece. Valuation measures peg the U.S. stock market as the most expensive it’s ever been, other than the 1999 dot-com bubble. But if-and-when those high valuations fall, investors can’t do much except minimize their exposure. To do that, Kaisssar advises taking another look at small companies, value stocks and foreign markets: bad performers in recent years but exceedingly cheap.
The P/E ratio spread for small companies, between the S&P 500 Index and the S&P Small Cap 600 Index, is at 5.5 points, and for value stocks, between the S&P 500 and the S&P 500 Value Index, it’s at 4.1 points—both numbers are the widest since the dot-com period. Overseas, there are even better bargains: the MSCI EAFE Index, tracking foreign companies in developed countries, is 6.7 points lower than the S&P 500, and the MSCI Emerging Markets is 9.2.
There’s usually a good reason why a certain asset is more expensive than others, and in stocks that reason is often because a more expensive company is a more profitable business. To grab some of the S&P 500’s profits, investors don’t have to chase it: by eliminating expensive companies, they can pay less and still gain profits. One way of doing that, Kaissar writes, is to purchase only the cheapest companies alongside the most profitable ones. While investors may still need to take more risk to increase their savings, they don’t all have to pile onto the same expensive investments. The more profitable strategy right now, the article concludes, is to shop around.