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姜国华:理解中国股市的逻辑

北京大学光华管理学院会计学副教授、博士生导师

 
 
 

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北京大学光华管理学院会计学教授、博士生导师、美国加利福尼亚大学伯克利分校哈斯商学院博士。著有《财务报表分析与证券投资》 博时基金高级投资顾问、毕马威会计师公司全球估值顾问

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2009-11-17 09:44:07|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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What's the Stock Market Worth Now?

by Jeremy Siegel, Ph.D.

Posted on Monday, November 16, 2009, 12:00AM

The recovery since March has been sharp, but the market is still well below its all time high. How much higher can it go? And what are stocks now worth?

Earnings Are Key

The value of stocks depends on earnings. Over the past century, stocks have been valued, on average, at about 15 times annual earnings, a number called the price-earnings ratio, or P-E ratio. This implies that annual earnings on stocks have averaged 1/15, or 6.7 percent of the stock's price. Another way of looking at this is that the average dollar invested in the stock market has earned 6.7 percent, which is called the earnings yield and is the reciprocal of the P-E ratio. Since earnings derive from real assets (factories, inventories, copyrights, etc.), the earnings yield represents the average real return to stock investors. This is why lower P-E ratios imply higher earnings yields and better returns for investors.

There are two major definitions of earnings that investors should pay attention to. One is operating earnings, which are the earnings generated from the firm's ongoing operations, and the other is reported earnings, which are earnings calculated by general accepted accounting principles (GAAP). The major difference between these two earnings concepts is that GAAP earnings include such items as write-offs and "extraordinary" gains and losses, whereas operating earnings exclude such items.

In general, reported earnings are lower than operating earnings, since write-offs usually exceed gains. The difference between the two definitions widens dramatically in recessions, since, in bad times, firms tend to write off unprofitable investments as well as capital in discontinued operations. (Write-offs of bad loans and investments by financial firms are subtracted from operating earnings, since gains and losses in these assets are considered part of their ongoing operations.)

Which definition of earnings is best for an investor to use? The true economic earnings probably lie somewhere in between these concepts. GAAP earnings are very conservative -- they include write-downs, which firms must take if the asset values are impaired, but do not include capital gains on unsold assets. Many firms own land, patents, and other capital that has appreciated over time but is carried on their balance sheets at cost. GAAP earnings are also biased downward because firms expense research and development (R&D), which, if these expenditures were capitalized, would boost earnings. In a world where ideas, copyrights, and patents are becoming more important, expensing R&D increasingly understates true earnings.

The good news is that, most of the time, it doesn't matter which concept is used because the measures are very close. Since 1988, operating earnings have averaged 88 percent of reported earnings and well over 90 percent if recessions are eliminated. In fact, in the second quarter and third quarter of this year, reported earnings in the S&P 500 firms amounted to $28.13, just 3 percent under the $29.08 operating earnings.

Earnings Estimates

Operating earnings for the S&P 500 Index for 2009 are projected to be about $56.00 per share, which, at current levels of the Index (1070), puts stocks at about 19 times earnings, higher than the long-term historical average of 15.

But basing stock values on 2009 earnings is inappropriate. 2009 marked the bottom of the worst recession since World War II. What is relevant for determining stock values are future earnings, not past earnings. Next year's operating earnings on the S&P 500 Index are projected to be $74.34 a share, marking the index at 14.4 times earnings. And early earnings estimates for 2011 are at $89 a share, puts stocks at about 12 time earnings.

Furthermore, stock values are not based only on 2010 or 2011 earnings but also on earnings in 2012 and beyond. And because of productivity trends , there is good reason to be optimistic about long-term earnings. Productivity growth has been on a tear, increasing at a 6.9 annual rate in the second quarter and a blow-out rate of 9.5 percent in the third quarter. This is the fastest two-quarter rise in productivity in 40 years.

Productivity gains boost profits because productivity measures how much more output can be produced for a given labor input. Since labor costs are the lion's share of most firms' expenditures, raising output through productivity growth means more revenue for given labor costs, and it raises earnings. If rapid productivity growth continues, stocks could quickly surpass their record high $91.73 level reached in 2007 before the recession began.

Yet another bullish factor for stocks is the recent level of interest rates and inflation. Historical data confirm that the lower the rate of interest, the higher the valuation of stocks for any level of earnings. This is true because bonds compete with stocks in investors' portfolios, and the lower the interest rate, the higher the fraction of stocks investors want to hold. My own research shows that when inflation and interest rates are low, such as we have today, stocks sell on average at 18 to 20 times earnings, substantially higher than current levels. An 18 P-E ratio on 2010 estimated earnings of $74.34 for the S&P 500 is 1340, more than 25 percent above current prices.

Final Words

Stock prices are based on forward-looking earnings, not on past earnings. Profits took a huge hit in this recession because of the enormous losses in the financial sector, but outside that sector profits have held up quite well. Because of the productivity surge, earnings are now increasing much faster than expected even though the economy is still operating well below its potential. As economic growth accelerates, profits should increase even more. We have had more than a 60 percent rally from the March lows, but this bull market is far from exhausted.

杰里米·西格尔是沃顿商学院的金融学教授,《投资者的未来》作者。

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