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A Third Scenario For Stock Markets

Robert Shiller on the New York Times argues that the stock market is expensive by historical standards using the cyclically-adjusted price earnings ratio (CAPE) that he has made popular through his writings since the late 1990s.

There is no doubt that the CAPE ratio for the US stock market is high by historical standards. Using Shiller's estimates it stands around 26 today, clearly above the historical average of about 17. What a higher CAPE means is that you are paying more for the same earnings. Earnings' growth could, of course, be different in the future. They might be lower because potential GDP growth is slowing down but they might be higher as profits as a share of GDP increase. If we assume the same number just for simplicity, a higher CAPE means that investors should expect a lower return if they buy the stock market today compared to an average year in the past.

What does it mean for the future price of the stock market? Shiller concludes that maybe we will see the stock market returning to historical averages...