Hussman: Profit Margins Skewing Valuations

John Hussman, whose funds had strong long-term track records before getting hit hard the past few years, says those who contend stocks are cheap are way off base.

“I can’t emphasize enough how badly standard P/E metrics are being distorted by record (but reliably cyclical) profit margins, which remain about 50-70% above historical norms,” Hussman writes in his latest market commentary. Hussman says valuations are actually more elevated than they were before the 2008 market plunge when margins are accounted for. Stocks are priced to return just 4.5% annually over the next decade, he says.

Hussman also talks about why he thinks the economic outlook is worse than many believe. But, he adds, “Emphatically, however, our concerns about the stock market continue to be independent of these economic expectations, as the hostile investment syndromes we’ve seen in recent months have historically been sufficient to produce very negative market outcomes, on average, even in the absence of economic strains. As always, I strongly encourage investors to adhere to their disciplines — including those following a buy-and-hold approach — provided that they have carefully contemplated the full-cycle risk and their ability to stick to their strategy through the worst parts of the investment cycle. What I am adamantly against is the idea that speculators can successfully ‘game’ overvalued, overbought, overbullish markets — particularly in the face of numerous hostile syndromes, near-panic insider selling, speculation in new issues, and broad divergences in market internals, all of which we are now observing.”