Year-End Investment Market Report

The bull market continued for another year, causing market indices to soar to new heights over and over again and—ominously—also pushing valuations further beyond the long-term averages.

This was a year when investors ignored the dire headlines, North Korean missile threats, investigations of the Presidency, hurricane devastation and a rapidly-growing national deficit to produce one of the smoothest investment rides in the past century.

How long can this continue?  Who knows?  The S&P 500 is now trading at around 18 times forward earnings, which is above the historical average of 16—which, loosely translated, means you aren’t getting a bargain when you buy stocks today.  At the same time, we are experiencing low unemployment rates and solid profits for American companies.  The U.S. economy is growing at a 3% rate.  And the psychology of the markets doesn’t match what you traditionally see at market tops: people still seem to be suspicious about how long the market rally will last, unlike the normal buying frenzy that often presages the next sharp downturn.

It will be impossible for forecasters to spot a broader bear market where most stocks lose value. The important thing to remember is that few people have ever become extremely wealthy by timing the market and jumping out because they think they can predict the next downturn.  Many have gotten significantly wealthier by holding on whenever the raft hits the rapids. We missed the rapids in 2017, but let’s make sure we have a tight grip anyway.

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Scott Carlson