Fundamentals have been driving the stock market higher, not valuations: earnings during the past 1 year and 2 years have risen faster than the S&P index itself (meaning, valuations contracted). The strong growth in company profits is not due to a net share reduction (e.g., buybacks) either.
Looking ahead, expectations for 10% earnings growth in 2019 looks far too optimistic and will likely be revised downward as the substantial jump in margins this year is unlikely to continue. Even maintaining these margins will be a stretch, and earnings are at risk of falling. Dollar appreciation and declining oil prices are additional headwinds.
Valuations are now slightly below their 25-year average. They are not cheap, but the excess from early 2018 has been worked off. If investors once again become ebullient, there is room for valuations to expand. With earnings growth at risk, the key for share price appreciation in 2019 is likely to hinge on valuations expanding.
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90% of the companies in the S&P 500 have released their third quarter (3Q18) financial reports. The headline numbers are very good. Here are the details:
Quarterly sales reached a new all-time high, growing 11% over the past year. On a trailing 12-month basis (TTM), sales are 10% higher yoy, the best growth in 12 years (since 2016; all financial data in this post is from S&P). Enlarge any image by clicking on it.