Six years after the Global Financial Crisis, the U.S. stock market continues to soar to new heights with nary a pullback or correction. In this piece, I will explain why the stock market is experiencing a new bubble that is actually another wave of the bubble that has existed since the mid-1990s.
A two-decade old bubble? Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Most people will consider this assertion preposterous, but the facts don’t lie. Though the U.S. stock market has been experiencing a bubble for two decades, it will not last forever. I believe that the ultimate popping of this bubble will have terrifying consequences for both investors and the global economy that is tied so closely to the stock market.
The SP500 stock index has more than tripled since its low in 2009, but that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods. On the contrary, this is the calm before the storm.
Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. economy and stock market has experienced three different bubbles: the 1990s Dot-com bubble, the mid-2000s housing bubble, and now another bubble that includes stocks, bonds, tech startups, certain segments of the housing market, higher education, and much more. I believe that this new bubble is creating what I call a “Bubblecovery” or a bubble-driven temporary economic recovery that will end in another crisis.
The U.S. Federal Reserve also created a Bubblecovery in the early-2000s to recover from the Dot-com bust, which led to the housing bubble. After the housing bubble burst, the Fed inflated the post-2009 Bubblecovery. After each bubble/Bubblecovery ends, the Fed simply inflates another bubble to recover from the last one. In essence, the U.S. economy and stock market has been in a bubble cycle for the past two decades. Each time, the bubble gets larger, and the Fed has to keep re-inflating it to avoid the economic Depression that would occur if asset prices were allowed to find their true value.
The incessant push to inflate our economy and financial markets has created an unprecedented situation in which stocks have been trading at overvalued levels for a record length of time. Nearly every stock market valuation indicator is giving the same reading: stocks are currently at levels that preceded other major historic busts.
The key takeaway is that overvalued financial markets are not sustainable and must eventually experience a correction that returns them back to their fundamental value. In a free market (unlike what we have now), stock valuations move in waves, alternating from undervaluation to fair valuation to overvaluation, and back again. The Federal Reserve, by trying to keep the bubble constantly inflated, has distorted this natural process. Regardless, U.S. stocks will come back to earth when the Fed finally loses control of the situation, and the final comedown will be far more painful than would occur in a free market.
How has the Fed kept the stock market inflated for so long? One way is by steadily cutting its benchmark Fed Funds Rate to an all-time low and holding it there for an unprecedented length of time. Interest rates have been falling since the early-1980s, and their low levels in the past two decades have helped to buoy stock valuations. Low interest rates fuel asset bubbles because it makes saving (or holding cash) less attractive than investing in riskier assets like stocks that are rising at a rapid rate.
Full article: Disaster Is Inevitable When The Two Decade-Old Stock Bubble Bursts (Forbes)