I wrote in an earlier blog that I would become more cautious about US equities if profit margins came down. We have just had the figures for the first quarter of 2014 and profit margins have narrowed. I should therefore keep readers up to date and explain why I do not think the latest data are signalling the top of the market.
As I pointed out in “US corporate debt and cash flow”, US companies have been the key buyers of the stock market and the rate at which they have been buying shares is unsustainable, because debt cannot continue to grow at the pace needed to finance the purchases. The difficulty with things that cannot go on is deciding when they will stop and I will try to explain why I think this point has not yet arrived, despite the uncertainty that anyone must have about such things.
There are still, of course, some good reasons for caution. The new Z.1 data allow the value of the US stock market to be updated and, as shown on my website, as at June 6 2014 with the S&P 500 index at 1,949 points the overvaluation shown by q was 88 per cent for non-financials and 87 per cent as shown by the cyclically adjusted price/earnings ratio, or Cape, for quoted shares.