It was inevitable that virtually at the same time as Goldman said the S&P is overvalued "by almost every metric" that the firm would go ahead and slam US equities in only its first tactically bearish call on US stocks in over a year.
Recall from Friday night:
S&P 500 valuation is lofty by almost any measure, both for the aggregate market (15.9x) as well as the median stock (16.8x). We believe S&P 500 trades close to fair value and the forward path will depend on profit growth rather than P/E expansion. However, many clients argue that the P/E multiple will continue to rise in 2014 with 17x or 18x often cited, with some investors arguing for 20x. We explore valuation using various approaches. We conclude that further P/E expansion will be difficult to achieve. Of course, it is possible. It is just not probable based on history.
The current valuation of the S&P 500 is lofty by almost any measure, both for the aggregate market as well as the median stock: (1) The P/E ratio; (2) the current P/E expansion cycle; (3) EV/Sales; (4) EV/EBITDA; (5) Free Cash Flow yield; (6) Price/Book as well as the ROE and P/B relationship; and compared with the levels of (6) inflation; (7) nominal 10-year Treasury yields; and (8) real interest rates. Furthermore, the cyclically-adjusted P/E ratio suggests the S&P 500 is currently 30% overvalued in terms of (9) Operating EPS and (10) about 45% overvalued using As Reported earnings.
Sure enough, here comes Goldman's global portfolio strategy research team headed by Nielsen, Oppenheimer, Kostin, Garzarelli, and Himmelberg, and pulls another leg out of the Fed-driven rally.
We downgrade the US equity market to underweight relative to other equity markets over 3 months following strong performance. Our broader asset allocation is unchanged and so are almost all our forecasts. Since our last GOAL report, we have rolled our oil forecast forward in time to lower levels along our longstanding profile of declining prices. We have also lowered the near-term forecast for equities in Asia ex-Japan slightly. Near-term risks have declined as the US fiscal and monetary outlook has become clearer.
Our allocation is still unchanged. We remain overweight equities over both 3 and 12 months and balance this with an underweight in cash over 3 months and an underweight in commodities and government bonds over 12 months. The longer-term outlook for equities remains strong in our view. We expect good performance over the next few years as economic growth improves, driving strong earnings growth and a decline in risk premia. We expect earnings growth to take over from multiple expansion as a driver of returns, and the decline in risk premia to largely be offset by a rise in underlying government bond yields.
Over 3 months our conviction in equities is now much lower as the run-up in prices leaves less room for unexpected events. Still, we remain overweight, as near-term risks have also declined and as we are in the middle of the period in which we expect growth in the US and Europe to shift higher.
Regionally, we downgrade the US to underweight over 3 months bringing it in line with our 12-month underweight. After last year’s strong performance the US market’s high valuations and margins leaves it with less room for performance than other markets, in our view. Our US strategists have also noted the risk of a 10% drawdown in 2014 following a large and low volatility rally in 2013 that may create a more attractive entry point later this year.
Of course, how the above trade fits with Goldman's top trade #1 for 2014 revealed in November, which was to go long the S&P funded by an AUD short, one can only wonder.
And now the muppets start to wonder: should we do what Goldman is telling us to do, and blow up as always, or do what Goldman's trading desk is doing, which probably is buying risk from all those who are selling. Ah, questions.