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Friday, 28 February 2014

The Stock Market's Shaky Foundation

By Chris Martenson

According to the stock markets in the US and in Europe, the world’s economy is not just in good shape, but is in the best shape it’s ever been.

The S&P 500 hit an intraday new record high of 1,858.71 on Feb 24, 2014, and is now 18.6% above the peak it hit in 2007, a moment everybody now recognizes was heavily overvalued.

An almost 19% gain above the prior all time high is an enormous and unusual event. Surely, you are thinking, there must be an equally compelling story and loads of fundamental data to support such a bull market?

Well, there really isn’t.

Not a lot has changed between the prior 2007 peak and today. From a fundamental standpoint, not much at all. Per capita income is only up 8.1% between now and then, and yet the equity markets are rallying like the biggest income boom in all of history has occurred.

Worse, the per capita income data is obscuring the fact that what little income gains have been recorded went almost entirely to the top ten percent of the population. So there’s no broad prospering middle class to drive an economic expansion of the sort that stocks seem to be pricing in.

Of course, the main narrative right now has nothing to do with anything fundamental. Rather, it centers on the idea that as long as the central banks of the west and Japan continue to print, everything financial will just continue to go up in price while -- somehow -- price inflation will remain tame.

Our view here at Peak Prosperity is that this narrative is wrong in every respect; except, perhaps, for those using a highly compressed speculation timeline that ignores both fundamentals and history.
In the immediate term, stock prices gyrate based on various assumptions that are often completely disconnected from reality.

But over the medium and longer terms, fundamentals drive prices; as it is ultimately corporate income and ultimately dividends that determine the value we ascribe to equities, and it's the prospect of future earnings growth that drive the price multiple.

We’ll show in a moment just how far equity prices have diverged from the fundamentals.

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