Broker Check

First Trust Chief Economist has written a commentary that is worthy of our attention

September 05, 2023
First Trust Chief Economist has written a commentary that is worthy of our attention. He explains why the markets are overvalued and how you should play the next several months on the defensive. I have not edited this article so that you can appreciate his expertise. I am aware that it may be difficult for some to understand, but I thought it worthy of our consideration.


“At the heart of our assessment of the stock market is our Capitalized Profits Model.

 That model takes economy-wide profits (excluding profits or losses generated by the Federal Reserve) quarter by quarter going back nearly seventy years and discounts those profits by the 10-year Treasury Note yield in each of those quarters. We then compare discounted profits in those quarters with discounted profits today, putting equal weight on every previous quarter, and using that average to estimate value.

At Friday’s close, the 10-year Treasury was yielding 4.24%. Plugging that yield into the model (and assuming profits remain at the same level as they were in the first quarter) suggests a fair value for the S&P 500 of 3,170, substantially lower than the Friday close of 4,406.

It's important to recognize that the Cap Profits Model isn’t a “trading” model. You shouldn’t use it day-to-day; stocks can remain significantly overvalued or undervalued for prolonged periods of time. However, the model can be used to gauge how attractive stocks are relative to normal.

Today, stocks look expensive. Moreover, when we review what would have to happen for the model’s estimate of fair value to rise to where the stock market is today, it looks even more likely that stocks will face headwinds in the year ahead.

One way to bring fair value up to Friday’s close of 4,406 would be for the 10-year yield to drop to 3.05%. But what do the economy as a whole and profits in particular look like in a scenario with a much lower long-term bond yield? The yield curve would be very deeply inverted and nominal GDP growth would have to be either much slower or expected to slow substantially in the near future. In turn, that would probably mean weaker profits.

Another way for the model to project a fair value for stocks at 4,406 would be for profits to rise 39% while the 10-year holds around 4.24%. What makes this absurd is that a world in which profits surge 39% is one where the 10-year yield is almost certainly higher, because nominal GDP growth is much higher as well. Between the end of 2019 (pre-COVID) and Q1(2023) profits are already up 24%. Another 39% gain would put profits relative to GDP well above where they’ve been during the entire post-World War II era.

So, if a large drop in the Treasury yield would likely come with a recession and lower earnings, and a sharp increase in profits would likely mean higher long-term interest rates, the market is stuck at current levels. And this, in our opinion, leaves only one main mechanism to bring actual stock prices and fair value back toward alignment: a drop in equity values.

Again, don’t use the model as a reason to sell all your stocks today; that would be foolish. Investors should be focused on their long-term goals and their appetite for risk. The model is telling investors they should be at least a little wary and should allocate to sectors that are cheap relative to the market as a whole. Allocation is always important, and doubly so under conditions like these.”


As you can readily see, this economist believes the market is expensive and caution is merited. We agree and have all of our assets in a defensive posture. Over the next several months we will be watching for weakness in the market to nibble at the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. For now we remain conservative. 

"This material is provided for general information and is subject to change without notice.  Every effort has been made to compile this material from reliable sources however no warranty can be made as to its accuracy or completeness. The information does not represent, warrant or imply that services, strategies or methods of analysis offered can or will predict future results, identify market tops or bottoms or insulate investors from losses. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.  Investors should always consult their financial advisor before acting on any information contained in this newsletter.  The information provided is for illustrative purposes only.  The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Geneos Wealth Management, Inc."