Posted by: Ben Levisohn on November 3, 2009
Equities are expensive, says High Frequency Economics chief economist Carl B. Weinberg. But before you start dumping all the stocks in your portfolio, pay heed – it’s Europe, Japan and England – not the U.S. – you need to worry about.
During the past two quarters, U.S. investors have become accustomed to companies beating earnings estimates. Sure, much of that has been done with cost cutting, but a beat is a beat. In Europe and Japan, however, third quarter corporate earnings have been coming in below expectations. That’s impacted valuations across the board. The Japanese Nikkei 225 has a trailing p-e of 37.58, the Xetra DAX 100 has a p-e of 43.95 and England’s FTSE 100 has a p-e of 21.15. The S&P 500, in contrast, has a p-e of just 21.15.
The difference, Weinberg says, stems from labor market differences. In the U.S., job cuts have been deep and painful, but they’ve also been quick. Costs have quickly been realigned and that’s helped keep price-to-earnings ratios near “historical norms,” Weinberg says. European and Japanese lack the flexibility to cut wages or lay workers off to match falling demand. That’s good for workers but bad for valuations. Says Weinberg: “This will be a bad season for [Japanese, Euroland and London] stocks.”