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Market watch: What will the next year hold?

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 6, 2010
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The Dow Jones industrial average is the U.S. stock market that is performing the best right now, and it is overpriced. Operations around the world act as a hedge against U.S. and foreign currency fluctuations.

That’s why the demand for the DJIA stocks is greater — they represent investments in well-known companies, operating all over the globe, that are viewed as a haven of safety in uncertain stock markets.

But at 18.5 times earnings, the Dow is way over its historical average of 14.4 times earnings.

As mentioned in the two last Market Watch articles, there is little upside for U.S. stock markets in 2010. The chart (see box) takes a look at historic and present Dow Jones industrial averages. The yield is the amount of money paid in dividends on the Dow Jones stocks, divided by the Dow Jones industrial average. At the top of the chart you will see current values in 2009 representing a 2.6% yield on the Dow Jones industrial’s stocks based upon a current price of 10,500 points on the Dow. Yields in 1949, ’74, ’80 and ’82, represent post-World War II stock-market bottoms.

Note that if we were to reach those values today, the stock market would be less than half its current value. Most importantly, the average historical yield on the Dow is 4.3% of cash dividends paid as a percentage of the Dow Jones industrial average. If those historical averages were reached today, instead of being 10,500 points, the market would be 6,349 points. 

 The chart is telling us the current stock market is considerably overvalued. In support of that are some recent studies done by reputable analysts: James O’Shaughnessy, chairman of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, feels we are in for a 3% to 5% a year return until 2020, as compared to annual returns of 14% in the 20-year period leading up to 2002. Steve Leuthold, mentioned in previous Market Watch articles, predicts a 10-year average return of 5% annually, when price-earnings ratios are 18.5 times earnings, as the Dow is now.

Stock-market profits are made based upon the level at which the stock has been purchased. You can see from the chart that great buying opportunities occur when the market reaches a true bottom, which has not yet occurred. Mathematics points to stock-market returns of 5% or lower over the next several years, which means the investor may be better off to sit on, and accumulate, cash.

Why cash?
Investors are reluctant to keep cash because of the current low yields. But these low yields were fixed by the Fed, and over the long run, central banks cannot fix interest rates. The Fed has pushed interest rates down to almost zero for banks borrowing from each other short term. That usually cannot last long because the forces of the market ultimately dictate yield on bonds, the most important measure of which is the 10-year Treasury note.

Interest rates are currently creeping up, because foreigners are reluctant to accept U.S. bonds that are financing our current deficit at the interest rates for which the Fed wants to sell the bonds. With the dollar going down, foreigners are going to want a higher interest rate to compensate for the loss of the value of the bonds. If they do not receive higher rates, they will simply sit on the sidelines and not purchase our debt.

In 2010, the U.S. government will have to finance $3.5 trillion, an almost impossible task in a $14.1 trillion economy. Foreigners, the biggest buyers of U.S. debt in the last several years, are aware of the fact that our current debt is 3.6 times our GDP, which is up from 1.6 times our GDP in 1980. Huge debt buildup is like a bell-shaped curve. The top of the slope, the apex, is where purchasers say “enough.” The unwinding of debt buildups is painful, and that’s where we are. 

Nobody knows, because of the magnitude of our debt, how this will play out. The conservative investor will save his cash and sit on the sidelines until obvious buying opportunities exist at realistic prices. It is unlikely that those opportunities will present themselves in 2010, but the odds of the markets moving sideways, or down, appear greater than further increases in stock prices.

Furthermore, the risks are greater that something bad will happen, rather than something good happening. That is additional reason for the conservative investor to hoard cash until a clearer vision of the investment future is available.
Problems to be faced in 2010
The first problem we face is the one discussed above, the refinancing of $3.5 trillion of U.S. federal debt.

The only place that money can come from is if the government continues to print money to buy their own bonds, which is what they will — and are — doing. That is inflationary. Investors are reluctant to invest in low-interest-paying securities when high inflation is expected around the corner. Henceforth, yields will have to go up. As yields go up, the price of bonds will fall. Falling bond prices are bad for the stock market.

Increases in interest rates essentially mean more money is being used to pay for interest on the bonds that otherwise might have been turned into earnings for stock holders and, hence, higher dividend income.

That’s not happening.

The new federal health bill is likely to be instituted in 2010. It’s 1,990 pages long and 363,000 words — twice as long as the Bible. By their own admission, not one congressman and not one senator has read the bill. It has been put together by Democratic “staffers” who are usually young, idealistic, pro-government and economically liberal. 

Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, both government GSAs (government service agencies), are again in trouble and had to be infused with capital last week. This will continue, as will the problems with the automobile industry and banks the Fed has deemed “too big to fail.”

Nobody has figured out how we will pay for this new health bill, reduce our deficit or get government spending under control. Such huge undertakings, until appropriately satisfied, will probably continue to frustrate the private sector and, accordingly, the markets in 2010.

The public is beginning to wake up and see that Wall Street and the government worked in concert to defraud them. There is pressure upon the Fed to be audited in a bill signed by almost 200 congressmen.

Central bankers control the money of the world. They are accountable to no one, which never works because man’s greed cannot be controlled by man.

The bankers, recently refinanced gratis the U.S. taxpayer, are giving all sorts of reasons why the Fed has saved the country, why the Fed cannot be audited and how great central planning has been for our economy. Money control is people control, and people control is the ultimate power. Government has a monopoly on power. The Fed, owned jointly by the government and the banks that were “too big to fail,” has more power than any bankers or governments in history. Its going to fight tooth and nail before giving up that power. 
2010 is a year of many uncertainties. The twin killer of excessive government debt and excessive government spending must be contained or 2010 will be a piece of cake compared to what we’ll face beyond 2010.
Caveat Emptor.

George Rauch, Longboat Key, is chief executive officer of Bradenton-based General Propeller and a former Wall Street investment banker.


            Average              DJIA today
Date         Yield           (@ that yield)
1949         7.7%                       3,545
1974         5.1                          5,353
1980         5.7                          4,790
1982         6.3                          4,333
2009         2.6                        10,500

average    4.3                          6,349


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