Are Stocks Overvalued? Yes, According to Dividend Yields

In a world of iPhones, social media, and twitter, it’s easy to forget about time proven market forecasting techniques. But just because there isn’t an app for dividend-based value analysis doesn’t mean it’s not working anymore.

Nobody likes to get trapped. Animals don’t like traps, humans don’t like traps, and investors hate money traps. But how do you distinguish a profit opportunity from a profit trap?

From October 2011 to September 2012 the S&P 500 gained 37%. Was this the beginning of a new bull market or the final leg of the QE bull market?

From March 2009 to September 2012 the S&P 500 soared 121%. Is this rally a new bull market leading to new all-time highs or a monster counter trend rally?

Charles Dow, the founder of the Wall Street Journal and original author of the Dow Theory, said that: “To know values is to know the market.” Yes, valuations might well hold the key to the above questions.

I follow four metrics to determine fair value:

1) Dividend yields
2) P/E ratios
3) The Gold Dow
4) Mutual fund cash levels

A special report analyzing all four valuation metrics was sent out to Profit Radar Report subscribers on Thursday. This article will look at one metric: Dividend yield.

What Dividend Yields Teach about Value

What connection is there between fair value and dividend yields? To illustrate:

Company A trades at $100 a share and pays a dividend of $5 per share. Company A’s dividend yield is 5%.  If company A’s shares soared to $200 a share without dividend increase, the yield will fall to 2.5%.

There’s a direct correlation between a company’s share price and its dividend yield. Higher stock prices lead to lower yields. Low dividend yields are a result of pricey stocks.

Dividend yields are probably the purest measure of valuations. Unlike P/E ratios, they can’t be fudged and massaged (although the current dividend yield is likely inflated by the Fed’s low interest rate policy, which makes it easier for companies to accumulate the cash needed to pay dividends).

Since the year 1900 dividend yields for the S&P 500 have averaged 4.25%. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) currently yields 2.02%, 52.5% below the historic average.

The current yield is much closer to the all-time low of 1.11% (August 2000) than the all-time high of 13.84% (June 1932).

The chart below juxtaposes the S&P 500 (log scale) against dividend yields and shows that every major market top coincided with a yield low, and every major market low coincided with a yield high.

Dividend yields aren’t currently at an extreme that requires an immediate drop in stocks, but they do suggest that stocks are overvalued.

What Does this Mean?

What do low yields mean for investors? Valuation metrics are long-term forecasting tools, they shouldn’t be used to enter or rationalize short-term trades.

The long-term message of dividend yields is that the down side risk is greater than the up side potential. The next big move will likely be on the down side.

The best entry point for long-term trades is usually discovered by shorter-term market timing tools. Every prolonged decline starts on the hourly and daily chart.

The Profit Radar Report monitors long-and short-term market timing indicators to identify low-risk high probability trading opportunities.

Simon Maierhofer shares his market analysis and points out high probability, low risk buy/sell recommendations via the Profit Radar Report. Click here for a free trial to Simon’s Profit Radar Report.

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