“Being wrong on your own, as Keynes described so eloquently in Chapter 12 of the General Theory, is the cardinal crime of an investment manager. The management of career risk results in very destructive herding. Investors should be aware that the U.S. market is already badly overpriced – indeed, we believe it is priced to deliver negative real returns over seven years [GMO estimates fair value for the S&P 500 at 1100]. Be prudent and you’ll probably forego gains. Be risky and you’ll probably make some more money, but you may be bushwhacked and if you are, your excuses will look thin. My personal view is that the path of least resistance for the market will be up.”
“I cannot look at myself in the mirror; everything I have believed in I have had to reject. This environment only makes sense through the prism of trends. You have got to be in things that are trending. Crashing is the least of my concerns. I can deal with that, but I cannot risk my reputation because we are in this virtuous loop where the market is trending. I may be providing a public utility here, as the last bear to capitulate.”
“I am out of justification to fight the uptrend. Up until now, I have had what I thought was compelling evidence to believe in the bearish case, but it has now been revealed to have been insufficient for the task. I am without ammunition to bet on the bears. I don’t like it, because I see the market as overly dependent upon the Fed’s largesse for its upward continuation. I see this as a bubble, but a bubble that is continuing higher even though it should not. I plan to ride the bubble for a while, and will hope to be able to succeed in reading the right [exit] signs."
In a classic case of not only locking the barn door after the horse is loose, but removing its best opportunity to return home, we’re seeing a capitulation by investment managers across every discipline, from technical, to value-conscious, to global macro. Historically extreme overvalued, overbought, overbullish conditions were in place even ten months ago, and my impression is that every further extension worsens the payback will inexorably follow.
Investors Intelligence reported last week that the percentage of advisory bears has plunged to 14.4%, lower than at the 2000, 2007, and 1987 peaks, and every point in-between. I’ll spare a full review of the overvalued, overbought, overbullish extremes we observe here (see A Textbook Pre-Crash Bubble) – it’s clear that over the past year, even the most extreme variants of these conditions haven’t “worked,” having already appeared in February and May of this year to absolutely no effect. I have no question – at all – that the market has simply climbed a higher cliff from which to plunge, but I learned in 2000 and 2007 that there’s no hope of convincing many investors of this sort of thing – despite the fact that these reckless speculative peaks seem so “obvious” after the market collapses. Even when investors listen, at least some of the tears they would have shed after the plunge are substituted for tears they have to endure while missing the final advance.