A New Stock Market Bubble?

Andrew Sullivan —  May 22 2013 @ 5:12pm

S&P 500 Chart

Surowiecki doubts it:

The underlying issue is that in recent decades there’s been a shift in the U.S. economy: it’s become far more congenial to businesses and investors. The fundamental trends that have driven the profit boom are unlikely to be reversed. That doesn’t mean that companies are going to be able to keep slashing their way to profit growth. As Doug Ramsey, the chief investment officer for Leuthold Weeden Capital Management, told me, “It’s hard to see how companies can get profit margins much higher, unless they want to see massive labor strikes across the country.” But keeping profits where they are doesn’t look all that difficult, which makes stocks today quite reasonably priced. It’s still possible that investor hysteria could eventually inflate stock prices, or that investor panic could send them crashing, but there is no profit bubble and, for now, no stock-market bubble, either.

Felix Salmon weighs in:

The stock market is a rising tide which is lifting only the luxury yachts; everybody else is underwater. That is genuinely deplorable. But it doesn’t mean that we’re in a bubble, and it doesn’t mean that if and when the tide goes out, the rest of us are going suffer massive injuries. There are always tail risks, of course: there are always unknown unknowns. But for the time being, the most likely scenario is that when asset prices start to fall, the main people to be hurt will be the ones owning the assets in question. In other words, the people who can best afford it. That’s not a bursting bubble: it’s just a common-or-garden bear market, of the type that all investors should be able to withstand.

(Chart from Doug Short)