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Monday, March 09, 2009

Nouriel Roubini, Dr Doom, Thinks DOW 5,000 is Possible

How low can the stock markets go? Nouriel Roubini, called "Dr. Doom" by many who didn't like his message last year before the markets crashed over 50%, says they can go much lower.

In the best case, Roubini sees the S&P500 (closed today at 676.53 - Charts) at 720, a gain of 6.4%. In the worst case, Roubini thinks there could be another 20% left in the decline with the S&P500 falling as low as 500 to 600 with the DOW down to 5,000 or 6,000.

The good news is he thinks liquidity measures instituted around the world have lessened the chances for a meltdown into a full depression, but there is a rising risk of an L-shaped "near depression" recovery. This means he thinks it will be many years for the economy to recover, not the one year for a recovery as many like Abby Cohen and Bob Brinker believe.

Roubini has argued that, in spite of the sharp fall in US and global equities significant downside risks to stock markets remain. He keeps saying that "repeated bear market rallies would fizzle out under the onslaught of worse than expected macro news, earnings news and financial markets/firms shocks." Today he wrote
"If you take a macro approach earnings per share (EPS) of S&P 500 firms will be – quite realistically in 2009 - in the $ 50 to 60 range (I say realistically as some may even argue that in a severe recession they could fall to $40). Then, the question is what the multiple, i.e. the price earnings (P/E) ratio will be on such earnings. It is realistic to expect that the multiple may fall in the 10 to 12 range in a U-shaped recession. Then, even in the best scenario (earnings at 60 and P/E at 12) the S&P index would be at 720. If either earnings are closer to 50 or the P/E ratio is lower at 10 then the S&P could fall to 600 (12 x 50 or 10 x 60) or even to 500 (10 x 50). Equivalently the Dow (DJIA) would be at least as low as 7000 and possibly as low as 6000 or 5000. And using a similar logic we argued that global equities – following the US - had another 20% plus downside risk."
He thinks any rally in 2009 would be a "bear market sucker's rally" driven by temporary improvements in the rate of change (second derivative) in economic growth from stimulis in China and the United States:
Of course you cannot rule out another bear market sucker’s rally in 2009, most likely in Q2 or Q3: the drivers of this rally will be the improvement in second derivatives of economic growth and activity in US and China that the policy stimulus will provide on a temporary basis: but after the effects of tax cut will fizzle out in late summer and after the shovel-ready infrastructure projects are done the policy stimulus will slack by Q4 as most infrastructure projects take year to be started let alone finished; similarly in China the fiscal stimulus will provide a fake boost to non-tradeable productive activities while the traded sector and manufacturing continues to contract. But given the severity of macro, household, financial firms and corporate imbalances in the US and around the world this Q2 or Q3 sucker’s market rally will fizzle out later in the year like the previous 5 ones in the last 12 months.
Roubini thinks US and Global equities could fall anouther 40 to 50%:
On the downside we have argued here that there is at least a third probability of a L-shaped global near depression rather than the mere current severe U-shaped recession. If a near depression were to take hold globally a 40% to 50% further fall in US and global equities from current levels could not be ruled out. But in this L-shaped near depression the last thing one would have to worry about would be stock markets as more severe issues would have to be addressed (unemployment rates in the mid-double digits – 15% or above - and multi-year stagnation and deflation).
Roubini thinks Abby Joseph Cohen is too bullish in her belief that investors will give the market a PE as high as 17 or more as they discount earnings getting better:

Earlier this year – at the peak of the latest bear market rally - I met Abby Cohen – the ever bullish equity markets expert at Goldman Sachs who predicted a 25% equity rally for 2008 and is making again a similarly bullish call for 2009. I asked her if we disagreed on earnings or on the multiple (P/E). It turns out that our forecast for earning per share for S&P 500 firms are similar: 50-60 range for me, 55-60 range for her. But she argued that a P/E in the 10 (to) 12 range was too low as investors would ignore the bad earnings numbers for 2009: if a rapid recovery of earnings were to occur in 2010 and beyond investors would discount the 2009 bad number and assign to them a much higher multiple of 17 or even more.

Roubini thinks Cohen is wrong. He does not believe we will have a significant economic recovery in 2010.

The trouble with that argument is that, with the US and global economy in a massive slump and with deflationary forces at work it is hard to believe that a massive economic recovery will occur in 2010 thus lifting sharply earnings: even in a U-shaped scenario US growth in 2010 would be 1% or lower and Eurozone and Japanese growth would be close to 0%. Thus, with weak growth deflationary pressure would be still lingering thus putting pressure on profits, pricing power of firms and thus profit margins. Thus, even in a U-shaped scenario a rapid rally of equities is highly unlikely.

Bob Brinker (Brinker Fan Club), like Abby Cohen, has said the same thing about PE ratios and he too was bullish in 2008 for an up year that did not happen. Roubini remains bearish and thinks the markets will bottom in the next 12 to 18 months. He cites how the last recession ended in 2001 and the markets did not bottom until 2002:

Also the “6-9 months ahead forward looking stock market view” is not always borne in the data. During the last recession the economic bottomed out in November 2001 and GDP growth was robust in 2002 but the US stock markets kept on falling all the way through the first quarter of 2003. So not only the stock market were not “forward looking”: they actually lagged the economic recovery by 18 months rather than lead it by 6-9 months. A similar scenario could occur this time around: the real economy sort of exits the recession some time in 2010 but growth is so weak and anemic while deflationary forces keep an additional lid on pricing power of corporations and their profit margins that US equities may – like in 2002 - move sideways for most of 2010 – with a number of false starts of a real bull market – as economic recovery signals remain mixed.

Thus, most likely we can brace ourselves for new lows on US and global equities in the next 12 to 18 months. Eventually a more sustained recovery will occur once we are closer to clear signals that this ugly global U-shaped recession is not turning into a L-shaped near depression and that the global economic recovery is clear and sustained. Until then expect very volatile and choppy US and global equity markets with new lows reached in the next months and the year ahead.

Roubini was correct as the "bear voice" on Larry Kudlow's show during most of 2008 when he argued Larry and the rest of the bulls were too optimistic. I hope he is wrong and the markets recover soon with the Obama and Chinese stimulus efforts. I don't believe anyone can time the markets, but those who are correct in the recent past sure get a lot of press.


Since 12/31/98 "Kirk's Newsletter Explore Portfolio" is UP 94% vs. S&P500 DOWN 14% vs. NASDAQ down 28% vs. Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) up 37% (All through 12/31/08) (More Info)

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