The Arithmetic of Risk, by John P. Hussman

Sooner or later Hussman’s warnings about overvalued markets and speculative manias are going to hit home. The market has been overvalued for a long time, but Hussman detects a shift in the its underlying risk dynamics. From Hussman at hussmanfunds.com:

The collapse of major bubbles is often preceded by the collapse of smaller bubbles representing ‘fringe’ speculations. Those early wipeouts are canaries in the coalmine. Once investor preferences shift from speculation toward risk-aversion, extreme valuations should not be ignored, and can suddenly matter to their full extent.

A month ago, I noted that prevailing valuation extremes implied negative total returns for the S&P 500 on 10-12 year horizon, and losses on the order of two-thirds of the market’s value over the completion of the current market cycle. With our measures of market internals constructive, on balance, we had maintained a rather neutral near-term outlook for months, despite the most extreme “overvalued, overbought, overbullish” syndromes in U.S. history. Still, I noted, “I believe that it’s essential to carry a significant safety net at present, and I’m also partial to tail-risk hedges that kick-in automatically as the market declines, rather than requiring the execution of sell orders. My impression is that the first leg down will be extremely steep, and that a subsequent bounce will encourage investors to believe the worst is over.”

On February 2nd, our measures of market internals clearly deteriorated, shifting market conditions to a combination of extreme valuations and unfavorable market internals, coming off of the most extremely overextended conditions we’ve ever observed in the historical data. At present, I view the market as a “broken parabola” – much the same as we observed for the Nikkei in 1990, the Nasdaq in 2000, or for those wishing a more recent example, Bitcoin since January.

To continue reading: The Arithmetic of Risk

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