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经济增长缓慢,上哪儿去赚10%的收益?

Shawn Tully 2017年08月02日

收益大幅提升而GDP缓步增长的情形,只是机构的幻想。

美国经济增长缓慢,投资者可能实现两位数的每股收益增长吗?

我们都听到了华尔街看涨者的念叨,分析师和市场战略师反复表示,每股收益的重新上扬会让股票价格提升。分析师现在普遍预测,标普指数的每股收益将会从2017年第一季度的100.29美元(根据过去四个季度计算)提高到2018年的133美元,年化增长率超过18%。

当然,这些普遍预测总是有些注水。不过即便我们把这些预测砍掉45%,在2017年第二季度到2018年第四季度这七个季度中,这些股票每股收益的增长率仍然有10%。

不过最近,国际货币基金组织到国会预算办公室等各个机构对未来GDP给出的预测增速都在2%上下,考虑到通货膨胀则是4%。那么,每股收益怎么才能比推动销售额,很大程度上决定这些收益的整体GDP高出6%的增速?

显然,长期来看,每股收益的增长和GDP的增长密切相关。不过在较短的时间区间内,情况未必如此。如果每股收益在较长时间内低于GDP的增长趋势,也可能迅速增长,重新达到它们的历史水平。不过现在,每股收益几乎没有出现这种低迷,而是正好相反:两大关键指标表明,以历史标准来看,如今的每股收益已经极高。1951年以来,企业利润平均占GDP的7.5%。而如今,它们占到了9.2%的国民收入。而利润呢?也很高。对《财富》500强公司而言,2016年的销售利润率为7.4%,比榜单创立64年来的平均利润率高出2个百分点,也是榜单上第四高的年利润率。

因此,最可能的结果是每股收益的增速不如GDP的增速。

这对未来的股价意味着什么?让我们假设今天的市盈率维持在现在的极高点24.6。按照书中的理论,也就是目前标普500指数12个月以来的平均值2464,除以每股年收益100美元得出的值。换句话说,也就是公司实际上挣得的钱。根据之前的预测,未来七个季度的收益将会达到133美元,那么每股收益率就是18,这从数学上看是不可能的。

在接近25的市盈率下,你在股市每投入100美元,标普的股市就会产生4美元的收益。你会通过分红得到4美元中的1.9美元,因为股息收益率只有微不足道的1.9%。25的市盈率就意味着总共的“真实”回报率为其倒数,即4%。在1.9%的股息收益率以外,另外2.1%以利润增长的形式,推动了相应资本的增长——考虑到对整体经济增长的现有估计,这很合理。再加上2%的通胀率,总增长速度就是6%。这完全达不到看涨者预计的两位数增长。不过考虑到十年国债的收益率只有2.33%,股市的收益率也不差。

是这样吗?风险在于,未来十年的回报率远低于我们6%基准线的概率,要远高于它们超过这条线的概率。由于企业利润已经大大高于历史平均值,如今这种趋势可能会在三四年内终结,重复到2013年的情景。根据经济学家罗伯特·希勒提出的让收益的顶峰和低谷更为平滑的周期性调整的市盈率,这是个危险的信号。如今,周期性调整的收益远远超出正常水平,以至于周期性调整的市盈率达到了可怕的30%。

低利率也无济于事。Hussman Funds的约翰·赫森曼在最近的一篇文章中表示“如果低预期增长率最后导致了低利率……那未来的回报率也会更低”,因为低经济增长率会同时导致低利率和低利润增长率。它们就像是股市里的不可分割的一对。赫森曼预计,标普指数未来十年中的总回报率是0。

赫森曼在利率、经济增长和利润增长的相互作用上谈到了关键的一点。从任何较长的一段时间来看,这三个数据都是紧密相关的。低于标准的经济增长,会同时导致低利率和糟糕的利润增长。所以低利率完全不应被看作是股市的利好,如果它们预示着未来平庸的商业气候,而情况往往就是这样。正如赫森曼指出的那样,“低折扣率”的益处完全被低收入增长所抵消了。所以不景气的增长和下滑的利率也会相互抵消。

事实上,实际利率的下滑会推动市盈率的提高。不过这段时期已经过去了。如今,我们面对的是极高的市盈率,它最终会给如今购买股票的人带来极低的回报。这就是25左右市盈率的诅咒。

那么,为什么股票还在继续大涨呢?赫森曼看来,这只是投机狂潮,一种“估价过高、购买过多、过度看好的综合征”。市场在不断与他的警告背道而驰,不过有一件事可以肯定:在4%增速(2%实际增速)的经济体中,每股收益达到10%的情形,也就是利润大幅提升而GDP缓步增长的情形,只是华尔街的幻想。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

Can profits really grow in double-digits in an economy bumping along at 2%?

That's the question that investors should be asking, and instead ignore at their peril. We've all heard the Wall Street bulls' mantra, endlessly advanced by analysts and market strategists, that a renewed surge in profits will keep equity prices waxing. The current consensus among analysts forecasts that reported S&P earnings-per-share will jump from $100.29 in Q1 of 2017 (based on the past four quarters) to $133 by the end of 2018, an annualized increase of over 18%.

Of course, those consensus forecasts are always inflated. But even if we discount those projections by 45%, the bulls are still expecting 10% gains in EPS over the the seven quarters spanning Q2 2017 to Q4 2018.

But recent history, and projections from every agency from the IMF to the CBO, foresee GDP growth in the 2% range, or 4% including projected inflation, well into the future. So how can the profits expand 6 points faster than the overall economy that drives the sales that largely determine the course of those profits?

It's clear that over long periods, growth in profits and GDP are closely linked. But that's not necessarily the case in shorter timeframes. If EPS are stuck well below trend for an extended period, earnings can rapidly expand to regain their historic levels. But today, profits are hardly depressed. It's the opposite: Two key metrics confirm that earnings are extremely high by historical standards. On average, corporate profits have averaged 7.5% of GDP since 1951. Today, they absorb 9.2% of national income. How about margins? They're lofty as well. For the Fortune 500, the ratio of profits to sales was 7.4% in 2016, more than 2 points higher than the average over the 64 year history of the list, and the fourth highest annual reading.

Hence, the most likely outcome is that profits at best expand at the less-than-thrilling rate of GDP.

What does that mean for the future of stock prices? Let's assume that today's price-to-earnings ratio remains at the current, and extremely high, 24.6. Haven't heard that figure? That's the one in the books, the ratio of the current S&P 500 average of 2464 to 12-month, reported annual earnings of $100. In other words, what companies actually earned. The 18 multiple more routinely cited is bogus. It's based on the bluebird prognosticating that "forward" profits will reach $133 in seven quarters, a mathematical impossibility.

At a PE of almost 25, the S&P is producing $4 in earnings for every $100 you spend on stocks. You receive $1.90 of that $4 in dividends, for a puny yield of 1.9%. A constant PE of 25 predicts a total "real" return of the inverse of that ratio, or 4%. In addition to the 1.9% dividend yield, the other 2.1% comes in the form of profit gains that drive equivalent capital gains––quite reasonable given current projections of overall economic growth. The total comes to 6%, including 2% inflation. That's nowhere the double-digit future the earnings bulls are projecting, but with the 10 year treasury at 2.33%, it's not bad.

Or is it? The risks that future returns will fall far below our benchmark of 6% over the next decade are a lot greater than the chances they'll exceed that bogey. Since corporate profits are well above historic averages, they could finish in three or four years right where they are today, repeating the scenario since 2013. That's the danger signal flashed by the cyclically-adjusted price-earnings multiple developed by economist Robert Shiller, a yardstick that smoothes the peaks and troughs in earnings to get a normalized multiple; today, profits according to the CAPE are so far above normal that the CAPE adjusted PE looms at a terrifying 30.

Nor will low rates help. John Hussman of the Hussman Funds stated in a recent article that "if low interest rates emerge as a consequence of low expected nominal growth...prospective returns will be lower," because low economic growth causes both low interest rates and low profit growth. They're the stock market's ham and eggs. Hussman is projecting a 0 total return for the S&P over the next decade.

Hussman makes a crucial point on the interaction between rates, economic growth and gains in profits. All three are closely aligned over any extended period. It's sub-par economic growth that causes both low real rates and sluggish profit growth. So low rates shouldn't be a boon to stocks at all if they're signaling a mediocre business climate ahead, as is usually the case. As Hussman points out, the benefit of the "low discount rate" is fully offset by the slower growth in earnings. So flagging growth and declining rates cancel each other out.

It's true that a fall in real rates swells multiples. But that game is over. Now we're left with hugely expensive PEs that will saddle folks buying equities today with extremely low returns. That's the curse of mid-20s PEs.

Why, then, do stocks keep soaring? For Hussman, it's all about a speculative frenzy, an "overvalued, overbought, overbullish syndrome." The market keeps defying his warnings, but one thing is certain: A future where EPS grows at 10% in a 4% (2% real) economy, where profits gallop while GDP lopes, is a Wall Street fantasy.

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