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Scary Chart Reveals Stock Market Spiral Can Turn Really Ugly

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
Ben Brown
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
  • The U.S. stock market has already dumped 27%, descending into the fastest bear market ever.
  • But it could fall a further 20-30% if it corrects back to fundamental levels.
  • The stock market has been wildly disconnected from corporate profits for the last five years.

Welcome to the fastest bear market in history. The U.S. stock market has collapsed 27% in a little over three weeks, wiping out tens of trillions of dollars.

Some investors may be looking to ‘catch the falling knife ’ and start buying stocks while there’s blood in the streets.

But this isn’t over yet , according to this chart published by Lance Roberts, chief strategist RIA Advisors.

Stock market wildly decoupled from profits

stock market price vs fundamentals
Source: Lance Roberts, RIA Advisors

This chart tracks the S&P 500 (blue line) against actual corporate profits (orange line). As you can see, the stock market has been out of whack and decoupled from fundamentals since 2015.

In other words, the stock market was way overvalued even before the coronavirus hit.

A basic mean reversion would see the S&P 500 correct back down to the 2,000 level. That’s a further 20% from today’s prices. And that’s before we throw in the impact of a recession on corporate profits.

The impending recession, and consumption freeze, is going to start the mean-reversion process in both corporate profits and earnings.

It gets worse if there’s a coronavirus recession

The chart above was originally published before the coronavirus panic swept the markets. Now there’s a very real threat of a recession. That means that corporate profits will likely decline below the current level. It leaves us with a chart that looks more like this:

Stock market vs fundamentals in a recession
If corporate profits slide in a recession, the stock market could fall even further until it reflects fundamentals. Source: Lance Roberts, RIA Advisors

With that in mind, Roberts gives a conservative estimate of 1,800 for the S&P 500 – a drop of 27% from today’s prices.

The resulting decline in asset prices to revert valuations to a level of 18x (still high) trailing earnings would suggest a level of $1800 for the S&P 500 index.

The stock market probably hasn’t bottomed

This might be the fastest bear market in history, but it’s not the deepest, yet. As you can see in the chart below, published by The Block’s Larry Cermak, we’ve got a long way to go if this tracks the 2001 or 2008 bear markets .

Larry Cermak stock market tweet

Roberts said it’s unlikely the market has bottomed yet, citing three distinct phases of a bear market. First, the initial drop. Second, the optimistic rebound. And third, the slow grind down until there are almost no buyers left.

Just like in 2000, and 2008, the media/Wall Street will be telling you to just “hold on.” Unfortunately, by the time “Phase 3” was finished, there was no one wanting to “buy” anything. That’s how you know a “bear market” is over.

We’ve already seen a few optimistic dead cat bounces. But we haven’t seen the slow bleed lower yet. Strap in. This could get ugly.