How Much Longer for This Bull Market?

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal recalls the adage that bull markets don’t die of old age. “Nine years into an extraordinary run for U.S. stocks, it’s easy to buy into the idea that the only things that can halt the market are a recession or the Federal Reserve.”

But this statement, it argues, “is only half right,” adding that “with the economy now appearing to be in the last phase of the cycle, in which the Fed starts worrying about too much growth rather than too little, some of the easy assumptions of recent years are starting to be challenged—and could threaten the most popular stocks.”

The easy access to money that has been the hallmark of the last nine years as well as hefty profit margins and rising share prices has rewarded Wall Street, the article argues, while punishing Main Street. Now, however, things are shifting, and Main Street is doing better. “But the economy isn’t a zero-sum game, and it could all work out well.” Everything rests, it argues, on whether corporate earnings will rise enough to offset the damage done by higher bond yields.

The article adds that, if bond yields continue to march upward as many believe they will, “earnings will need to be supported either by higher profit margins or higher sales.” It argues that, of the two, stronger sales appear to be more likely. “S&P profit margins are already fat, having hit a new high at the end of last year,” citing data from Yardeni Research. Higher wages, it asserts, will likely translate into more spending, and the consensus is that synchronized global growth means more overseas sales as well.

“Nine years on,” the article concludes, “there are ways for stocks to keep rising along with bond yields, but investors need to position themselves to profit from Main Street winning, too.”