The benchmark U.S. equity gauge capped its fifth straight weekly advance and hasn’t fallen more than 10% since October 2011, the longest stretch without such a drop since 2007, according to S&P.
“It’s unusual that we’ve gone so long without at least a correction,” Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, said from Philadelphia in a Nov. 6 phone interview. His firm oversees $58 billion. “If you just look at this from a valuation perspective, the market is rich. That doesn’t mean we have to crash, but it does suggest that going forward, your return assumptions for U.S. equities should be much more muted than they have been.”
Nine of the last 12 bull markets have ended in five years or less, data compiled by Bloomberg and Birinyi Associates Inc. show. The last cycle lasted exactly five years, with stocks climbing 102% from October 2002 through October 2007. The rally following World War II started in May 1947 and ended about a year later in June 1948.
At the start of 2013, Wall Street strategists forecast the S&P 500 would rally 7.6% to 1,534 by year’s end. The index surpassed that level on March 5, then climbed another 15%. Stock gains have come as the Fed held its benchmark lending rate near zero% since December 2008. The central bank also purchased more than $2.3 trillion of bonds in a quantitative easing program meant to stimulate the economy.
“What you often find in the first year after elections is not very good because you get into periods where the policies are tightening back up,” James Paulsen, the Minneapolis-based chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, which oversees about $340 billion, said in a Nov. 5 phone interview. “But this period has been so mightily different because the Fed is doing a totally unconventional thing here.”
The biggest equity-market advance to follow a president’s re-election was in 1997 when Clinton started his second term. The S&P 500 gained 31% that year, extending a rally that began in 1990. That bull market lasted through 1998, with the S&P 500 up 302%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Birinyi.
More gains are possible in this bull market with interest rates likely to remain low for the next year and profits forecast to keep climbing, according to Lawrence Creatura, a Rochester, New York-based fund manager at Federated Investors Inc., which oversees about $367 billion.
“This can continue for a long time,” Creatura said in a Nov. 6 phone interview. “This isn’t physics, there’s no Newton’s Laws that state how long a bull market has to last,” he said. “If you’re going to forecast a market retracement you’ll have to come up with a reason why earnings will falter.”
S&P 500 profits beat analyst estimates by 4.1% last quarter and have avoided a contraction every quarter since 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Analysts project they’ll climb 10% in 2014 and 2015. Corporate earnings reached a record $2.1 trillion for the quarter ending June 30, more than twice the $1 trillion at the end of 2008, according to data since 1947 from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.