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One of the biggest challenges investors face today is navigating the current equity environment as valuations are well above their historical averages. The P/E ratio for the S&P 500 climbed over 45% during the past five years resulting in several new all-time high index levels. Given the length of the current bull market many have begun to prepare for a correction over the past few years, yet we are still waiting.
In early 2016 equity markets appeared to be in trouble as earnings repeatedly disappointed. Instead, stocks ultimately rallied with Trump’s pro-growth agenda, as investors anticipated increases in infrastructure spending and lower taxes. But with the failure to pass any major legislation so far, it seemed these gains were in danger of being wiped out. However, this time it was earnings to the rescue, as they climbed more than 10% over the trailing 12 months. This allowed stocks to rise even higher while stabilizing valuations.
While earnings are unlikely to continue growing at this pace, during 2013 and 2014 they did average a more reasonable 6.5%. If earnings can maintain that level once again markets may be able to postpone a correction and further sustain the current bull market. Should they fall, however, there may not be other factors to support valuation levels and hold off significant losses.
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