Market’s Valuation Could Hold Back Trump Bull

During the Trump years, it will be tougher for stocks to see the kind of gains that occurred during the Obama administration,” according to last week’s Wall Street Journal. This is not only because the market had bottomed when Obama took office (and stocks were cheap), but also because of “what happened to corporate profits versus the overall economy.”

At the end of last year, that article states, the total value of U.S. stocks was an estimated 169% of gross domestic product (GDP), compared to 85% at the end of 2008, and is “now approaching the 177% valuation the market hit at the end of 1999.” This is significant because “it reflects how more of the gains in GDP over the past eight years have flowed to companies than to other areas of the economy, in particular workers.”

While during the Obama years companies limited wage gains and “only reluctantly” invested in new capital projects, that trend has shifted. Falling unemployment has reduced the pool of available workers which has pushed wages higher. This means “a bigger portion of U.S. output goes to workers and less to profits” which would typically motivate companies to move production overseas. Under the Trump presidency, however, this could be hard to do.

“So it seems unlikely that companies will be capturing a bigger piece of the economic pie; if anything, they may be getting a smaller slice.” Unless, the article suggests, there is a big boost in economic growth.