How History Informs the Valuation Discussion

In a recent article for Fortune, Ben Carlson writes, ”Market valuations are an important input into the investing process. But the relationship between the markets and valuations is far from perfect and requires context when thinking about what sky-high valuations mean for today’s investor.”

According to Carlson, according to data going back to 1945, a case could be made that the current market pricing should be even higher given the low level of interest rates:

He explains, “This doesn’t mean valuations or stocks have to stay high, but if interest rates and inflation remain subdued, the stock market should have higher valuations attached to it.”

Carlson points out that historical data, while interesting and informative, cannot tell us about the current environment or what’s going to happen. “Each environment is unique,” he argues, concluding that investors should temper their expectations regarding long-term returns. “Valuations are not a timing tool in terms of calling a market crash, but they can help investors set reasonable expectations about the range of future outcomes.”