#41 - Doug Ramsey - “Valuation Tells Me I Should Be Lighter Than Normal On U.S. Equities and Tilting More Towards Foreign”

69 minutes

In Episode 41, we welcome Doug Ramsey from Leuthold. Meb is especially excited about this, as Leuthold publishes his favorite, monthly research piece, the Green Book.

After getting a recap of Doug’s background, Meb dives in. Given that we’re in the Dow’s second longest bull run in history, Meb asks how Doug sees market valuation right now.

Doug’s response? “Well, that’s a good place to start cause we’ll get the worst news out of the way first...”

As will surprise no one, Doug sees high valuations – believing that trailing earnings-based metrics might actually be underestimating the valuation risk.

This prompts Meb to bring up Leuthold’s “downside risk” tables. In general, they’re showing that we’re about 30% overvalued. Across no measure does it show we’re fairly valued or cheap.

Doug agrees, but tells us about a little experiment he ran, based on the question “what if the S&P were to revert to its all-time high valuation, which was on 3/24/2000?” That would mean our further upside would stretch to about 3,400, and we’re a little under 2,400 today. Doug summarizes by telling us that if this market is destined to melt up, there’s room to run.

Meb agrees, and makes the point that all investors have to consider the alternate perspective. While most people believe that the markets are substantially overvalued, that doesn’t mean we’re standing on the edge of a drawdown. As we all know, markets can keep rising, defying expectations.

The conversation then drifts into the topic of how each bull market has different characteristics. Meb wants to know how Doug would describe the current one. Doug tells us the mania in this bull market has been in safety, low volatility, and dividends. Overall, this cycle has been characterized by fear – play it conservative.

The guys then bounce around across several topics: small cap versus large cap and where these values are now… sentiment, and what a difference a year makes (Doug says it’s the most optimistic sentiment he’s seen in the last 8 years)… even “stock market returns relative to the Presidential political party” (historically, democratic Presidents have started office at a valuation of 15.5, leading to average returns of 48%, while republicans have taken over at a valuation of 19, which has dragged returns down to 25%). The bad news? Trump is starting at very high valuations.

Next, the guys get into the biggest problem with indexing – market cap weighting. Leuthold looked at what happens to equities once they hit 4% of their index. The result? It becomes incredibly hard to perform going forward. It’s just near impossible to stay up in those rarified market cap tiers. So what’s the takeaway? Well, Doug tell us that he’d bet on the 96% of other stocks in the S&P outperforming Apple over next 10 years.

This episode is packed with additional content: foreign stock valuations… value, momentum, and trend… the Coppock Curve (with a takeaway that might surprise you – higher prices are predicted for the next 12-24 months!)… The best sectors and industries to be in now… Why 2016 was the 2nd worst year in the past 89 years for momentum…

Finally, for you listeners who have requested we pin our guests down on more “implementable” advice, Meb directly asks what allocation Doug would recommend for retail investors right now.

What’s his answer? Find out in Episode 41.

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