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股凛冬将至:应该适时收手美股的6个理由

Shawn Tully 2016年09月04日

美国股市已经进入了又一个极为平静的时期,但不平静的事情或许即将发生。

整个8月,标普500指数仅仅上下浮动了五次,且幅度均不超过0.5%。这也是近20年来,美国股市最波澜不惊的一个月。本周一,道琼斯指数才再次攀升了107点。

美国人对股市表现出了强烈的信心,认为美股强势回暖的势头还会继续,股市收益也会源源不断。现在几乎所有美国人都指望靠炒股的收益给孩子攒学费,顺便给自己攒养老钱。但如果你也抱定了这个打算,那么你最好现实一下,眼下应该担心一下你在股市账户里存下的那些辛苦钱了。虽然美股目前整体极为平静,但如果你打算把所有积蓄都投在股市里的话,眼下对你来说可能是最危险的时候。

目前美股最大的问题是:投资者对股市信心过度,而股市的前景看起来却极为疲软。

首先我们来看看VIX指数,它有时又被称作“恐慌指数”,因为它追踪的主要是市场对起保险作用的衍生品合同的需求水平,目前该指数还不到13,远远低于20的长期平均值,而且该指数目前的数值还不到一年前的三分之一——去年的这个时候,由于市场对中国经济增长率的放缓有较强担忧,从而导致美股暴跌,该指数一度处于较高水平。

而投资者们似乎相信,尽管近期关于股市的警告频传,但美联储和世界各国央行仍会继续放松银根,使利率保持在较低水平。而低利率对于股价来说是个很大的利好消息。

即便利率政策的走向真如他们所料,投资者对股市的期望值依然是过高了。虽然股市大跌并非无法避免,但我们可以肯定,未来股市的收益必然是极低的。所以这里要提醒投资者的是,当下乐观主义情绪的泛滥是盲目的,它很可能是一次股灾的序曲。

以下是你为什么应该对股市感到担心的六个理由。

1.股价已经非常非常高了

Over the past month through last week, the S&P 500 shifted half a percentage point, either up or down, only five times. That’s the most placid four-week period in two decades. On Monday, stocks rose another 107 points on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Americans are expressing confidence that the big returns equities have long delivered will keep coming, and that the gains will flow smoothly. But if you’re relying on your equity portfolio to pay for your kids’ tuition and fund your retirement, which is pretty much everyone these days, it’s time to get real, and get worried. Despite the extreme calm, this could be one of the most treacherous times to dump all your money into the stock market.

The problem: Investors are looking incredibly over-confident, and the prospects for stocks are looking exceedingly weak.

The VIX (VIX 0.00%) , which is sometimes called the fear index because it tracks the demand for type of derivative contract that provides insurance against a market drop, is just under 13. That’s far below its long-term average of 20, and less than a third of where it was a year ago, when fears about slowing growth in China caused the U.S. market to drop.

Investors, it appears, are convinced, despite repeated warnings, that the Federal Reserve and the world’s central banks are dedicated to easy money policies, meaning keeping interest rates low. And low interest rates are particularly good for stock prices.

Even if that’s true, though, investors are expecting far too much from the market. While a big drop in stock prices isn’t inevitable, what’s certain is that future returns will be extremely low. Memo to investors: Optimism is rampant, and it’s also delusional. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Here are Six Reasons Why You Should Worry About Stocks.

1.Prices are really, really high.

 
亚马逊公司的一座仓库里,一名工人正在往货架上放货。过去五年间,互联网零售巨头亚马逊的股价已经上涨了三倍以上。

根据过去四个季度的每股收益计算,目前标普500指数的市盈率是25.5倍,远高于1990年至今的平均值(19倍),更是远远超过了过去140年间的历史平均值(16倍)。锐联资产管理公司(Research Affiliates,该公司管理着价值1610亿美元的共同基金和交易所交易基金)首席投资官克里斯·布莱特曼对此指出:“问题在于,自从上世纪80年代初开始,股价的增长速度就远远超过了股利的增长速度,从而使得股票交易收入大大超越了历史均值。但这种转变只会发生一次,不会发生第二次。”

在这样高的股价水平上,投资者还能指望未来发生什么呢?我们不妨引入一个这样一个参考标准:我们都知道市盈率就是股票市价与每股收益的比值(P/E),我们可以把它倒过来,衡量一下每股收益与股票市价的比值(E/P),这样你就知道你每投资1美元在股市上,每年可以赚到几毛钱的收益。

目前的E/P约为3.9%,再加上2%的通胀,差不多就是6%。然而悲催的是,这个比例可能被估得太高了。原因是企业出于收购以及给高管涨薪等种种考量,而总是不断地发行新股。对此,布莱特曼认为,股本的不断稀释会导致E/P被减去1.5到2个百分点。因此,你在股市上的年收入更有可能是在4.5%上下。

布莱特曼还提醒道,目前有些所谓的“养老基金专家”们承诺称,他们的年收益能达到7.5%。华尔街也有些分析师预测称,未来几年,股市收益将进入强势看涨时代。而401K养老金计划下的一大批人早已经习惯了高达两位数比例的基金年收益。随着人人都在追求越来越多的不切实际的收益,市场的整体风险也必将越来越高。

2.盈利是大问题

Right now, the price-to-earnings ratio on the S&P 500 stands at 25.5, based on reported earnings-per-share over the past four quarters. That’s well above the average of around 19 since 1990, and less than 16 spanning the past 140 years. “The problem is that stock prices have been rising a lot faster than earnings since the early 1980s,” says Chris Brightman, chief investment officer of Research Affiliates, a firm that oversees strategies for $161 billion in mutual funds and ETFs. “That’s lifted returns far beyond the long-term average, and it’s a one-time shift. It won’t happen again.”

At these elevated prices, what can investors expect going forward? A reasonable gauge is the inverse of the P/E ratio, or E/P, which transform the popular valuation measure of the market into the annual earnings yield you’re getting on each dollar you’ve paid for stocks.

That inverse ratio stands at 3.9%. Add 2% inflation, and you get to almost 6%. Unfortunately, that estimate is probably too high. The reason: Companies are constantly issuing new shares for acquisitions and executive comp. According to Brightman, constant dilution subtracts between 1.5 and 2.0 percentage points from the earnings yield. Hence, you should count on more like 4.5% annual returns.

The rub, warns Brightman, is that pension fund gurus are promising 7.5% returns. Wall Street market strategists are predicting years of sumptuous returns. And the 401K crowd has gotten used to double digit returns to meet their goals for retirement. With everyone stretching for more and more unrealistic gains, the market is set to get riskier and riskier.

2.The big problem is profits.

 
第一太阳能公司(First Solar)只是最近见诸报道端的股利水平令人失望的众多上市公司之一。

我之所以说股市收入会令人失望,甚至有可能演变成一场股灾,理由就是在于股市的盈利前景黯淡。

不管以任何标准来看,股票利润之高已经到了盈不可久的地步。2015年,“财富500强”企业的股票收益合计已占到了总营收入的7%,与近62年的平均值(5.3%)相比,整整高出了32%。

自从2002年科技泡沫破裂以来,许多上市公司在大幅裁员后一直没有再度补充人手。他们都在勒紧裤带过日子,只要公司的销售额没有大涨,工资单上的数字就很少会涨。加之现在借贷成本显著下降,因此股票收益的爆发也就不足为奇。

然而当前,如果排除通胀因素,美国经济的增长率仅为2%左右,远未达到3%以上的历史正常水平,这说明上市公司营收入的增长也是步屡维艰,并非很多人想象的“大跃进”。与此同时,很多已经将员工的精力压榨到极限的公司也终于开始招聘了。大规模的招聘潮必然导致就业市场上的熟练工人数量减少,从而推高了工资水平。加上下一步利率上升可能造成的借贷成本的激增,可以说盈利前景是非常渺茫的。

美国国会预算办公室(CBO)在今年8月的报告中预测道,从2021年到2026年,美国本土企业的平均利润大约将只占GDP的7.5%,比当前水平低了整整1个百分点以上。

布莱特曼表示:“以前在相当长的一段时间内,利润的增长速度要比经济的增长速度更快,但是现在反过来了。”

据布莱特曼预测,在排除通胀因素后,在未来十年左右的时间范围里,美国股市的每股利润大约会上涨1.5%左右。但他也表示,如果在此期间有政策因素(比如给企业加税)严重影响了利润的话,那么这个数字也很有可能是0甚至是负数。

3.利率已经低得不能再低了

The reason returns will be disappointing, and could even prove disastrous, is the dreary profit picture.

By all yardsticks, profits are unsustainably high. In 2015, the Fortune 500‘s total earnings equalled 7% of revenues, 32% higher than than the 62-year average of 5.3%.

After the tech bubble burst in 2002, companies didn’t hire back the workers they’d laid off for many years. Instead, they ran extremely lean, so that the wage bill barely rose while sales waxed modestly. That trend, combined with a steep fall in their borrowing costs, created an explosion in earnings.

But today, the economy is growing at just 2% excluding inflation, well below the normal rate of well over 3%, meaning that revenues will trudge, not bolt, forward. At the same time, companies that stretched workforces to the max are finally hiring again, and the shrinking pool of skilled workers is driving pay higher. Add the prospect that rising rates will swell borrowing costs, and the outlook for profits is dim.

In its report in August, the CBO projects that domestic profits will average just 7.5% of GDP from 2021 to 2026, more than a full point below the current figure.

“We had a long period where profits were growing faster than the economy,” says Brightman, “and now it’s reversing.”

Brightman predicts that EPS will rise at 1.5%, excluding inflation, over the next decade or so. But he warns that number could easily be zero or even negative if public policy—like higher corporate taxes—severely punished profits.

3.Interest Rates Are As Low As They Can Go

 
2016年3月16日,美联储主席珍妮特·耶伦在华盛顿新闻发布会上发言的画面被反射到了一名纽交所交易员的屏幕上——Richard Drew AP

虽然华尔街的很多人对美元利率的上涨极为担忧,然而利率的稳步上涨并不会对经济产生严重危害。实际上美联储的连续加息政策甚至可能会对经济起到促进作用,因为它有助于提振信心。不过有两种情形可能还是会让投资者感到担忧。

首先,目前看来,美联储发布的任何加息决定似乎都会令市场感到恐慌。比如毕安可研究公司(Bianco Research LLC)总裁吉姆·毕安可表示:“市场不相信美联储关于利率的任何承诺,可是如果耶伦真的宣布了加息决定,投资者又会像去年12月那次加息时那样再度陷入恐慌。”不过如果加息的确预示着经济即将好转,那么股市上的抛售行为也将是暂时的,因为高利润随后就要来了。

第二种情形就是突然的大幅加息,这必然会吓坏投资者,并且造成更持久的破坏。这是因为至少在短时间内,企业和消费者的借贷成本会迅速上涨,而企业利润会迅速下降。据CBO预测,到2020年,美国的10年国债利率约为3.4%,这个数字也预示了下一步最有可能发生的情形:一是缓慢加息,从而不会导致市场恐慌;二是收益的缓慢增长,从而使市盈率能保持当前水平,同时也能为股东产生较低的个位数百分比的收益。

4.当前的政治气候更倾向工人而非利润

Contrary to the fears of many on Wall Street, a gradual rise in rates shouldn’t seriously dent the economy. In fact, continued rate hikes from the Federal Reserve might actually boost the economy, by giving a lift to confidence. However, two possible scenarios should trouble investors.

First, it seems that any rate increase the Fed announces can spook markets. “The market doesn’t believe any of the Fed’s promises about rates, but as soon as Yellen actually announces a new increase, investors will panic, just as they did after the December increase,” says Jim Bianco, president of Bianco Research LLC. If the rise does indeed signal a better economy, the selloff should be temporary, because higher profits should follow.

Second, a big, sudden rate rise is certain to spook investors, and cause more lasting damage. That’s because companies’ and consumers’ borrowing costs would rise a rapidly while their revenues and incomes play catchup, pummeling corporate profits, at least for a while.

The CBO forecasts 3.4% rates on the 10 year by 2020. That number implies what’s most likely: a gradual rise in rates that won’t spook markets, and slow earnings growth that could keep P/Es where they are now, but produce low single-digit returns for shareholders.

4.The political climate is pro-worker, not pro-profits.

 
希拉里与特朗普

不管特朗普和希拉里谁赢得大选,新一届美国政府肯定都希望工人阶级能多赚不少钱,而相应地,企业就会少赚不少钱。自资本主义诞生以来,企业的繁荣发展主要靠剥削工人的剩余价值,这个道理已经被人们所普遍接受,而且它基本上也是正确的。民主共和两党都觉得讨好工人阶级才是王道,所以双方都在想方设法去回馈那些造车工人、超市店员和餐厅服务员们。

比如,有不少企业为了将低人力成本而将生产转移到了海外,希拉里和特朗普都表示他们上台后要对这种行为进行处罚。对此布莱特曼评价道:“当前的政治环境已经使离岸生产成了一种‘有毒’的东西”。希拉里还声称要提高全美的最低工资标准,要求企业必须与工人分享利润,并且要堵住一些使很多企业能够缴纳极低的现金税的漏洞。

且不管这些政策真正是好是坏,他们对利润来说绝对是个坏消息。很多企业已经处在增收缓慢和成本上升之间的夹缝里,这些政策只会令这个夹缝愈收愈窄。如果下一步美国在法律法规的制订上真的做得太过火了,比如让那些反自由贸易和严格限制移民的法案得以通过,那么美国所面临的风险就不仅是利润增长缓慢那么简单了(当然这基本上也是难以避免的),而是必将面临崩溃。

5.小心欧洲的“黑天鹅”

Whether Trump or Clinton wins the presidency, it’s clear that the a new administration will want workers to earn a lot more, and by implication, for corporations to earn a lot less. It’s widely accepted, and basically correct, that companies have prospered for years at the expense of their workers. And both parties believe it’s beyond time the balance shifted back to rewarding the men and women who make the cars, check out the groceries, and serve the burgers.

Both candidates, for example, are promising to penalize companies for shipping production offshore, an important strategy for lowering labor costs. “The political situation is making off-shoring toxic,” says Brightman. Clinton also advocates a higher federal minimum wage, mandatory profit-sharing and family leave, and elimination of loopholes that allow many companies to pay extremely low cash taxes.

Whatever the merits of these proposals, they’re bad news for profits. They’d further tighten the squeeze between slow revenue growth and expanding costs. If the legislation and regulation, including those to nix free trade deals and severely restrict immigration, go too far, the U.S. risks not just slow growth in profits—that’s practically inevitable—but a collapse.

5.Beware European Black Swans.

 
2016年7月27日,意大利首都罗马,意大利总理马泰奥·伦齐在迎接英国首相特雷莎·梅时向群众挥手致意。

英国脱欧公投之后,各国对欧元区凝聚力的怀疑也与日俱增。今年十月,意大利也即将举行一次宪法公投,意大利总理马泰奥·伦齐宣称,如果公投失败他就辞职。虽然意大利公投并未将矛头直接指向欧盟,但它很有可能为意大利国内的极右党派创造一次良机,便于他们为放弃欧元或脱离欧盟造势。

意大利的银行基本上已经到了破产的边缘,缺乏信用更是延长了该国的深度衰退。欧盟关于拒绝救助意大利银行业的裁定又加深了意大利与欧盟的矛盾。如果伦齐的政改计划失败,或是意大利的银行全面崩溃(或是二者都在一定程度上发生了),则很有可能导致欧元区的第三大经济体抛弃欧元货币,重新使用里拉。

同时,法国、葡萄牙、波兰等国的民族主义和反欧盟运动,也有可能导致欧元区分崩离析。

欧元区的崩溃或将成为一只象征灾难的“黑天鹅”,导致恐慌蔓延至世界各地。但它也是一次历史性的买入良机。欧洲的一些弱国摆脱了欧元区的束缚后,很可能会重新获得竞争力,并且得以摆脱拖累他们多年的顽固僵化的弊病。

6.当心油价

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, Euro-skepticism is on the rise. In October, Italy is holding a constitutional referendum and its prime minister, Matteo Renzi, pledges to resign if it’s defeated. Renzi’s exit would create a wide opening for ultra-right wing parties that favor dumping the euro, or leaving the European Union.

Italy’s banks are also basically insolvent, and a dearth of credit is prolonging its deep recession. Brussels’ refusal to suspend EU rules that block Renzi from bailing out Italian lenders is causing further tension. A Renzi loss, a banking collapse, or a combination of the two could cause the Eurozone’s third largest economy to ditch the common currency and restore the lira.

And nationalist, anti-EU movements in France, Portugal, Poland, and other nations could cause the Eurozone to fracture.

A Eurozone collapse would be the ultimate black swan, causing panic selling worldwide. But it would also be an historic buying opportunity. Freed of the strictures of the euro, the weaker nations would regain their competitiveness, and escape the stagnation and austerity that have plagued them for years.

6.Watch Out for Oil.

 
2016年8月17日,美国德克萨斯州一口油井的火焰。

毕安可提醒道,原油价格一旦崩溃,有可能会引发一次信用危机。“现在的原油价格在45美元左右,当油价处于这个水平或以上时,油价和股市之间没有什么相关性。但当油价跌落到30美元的区间上,油价与股市就有很高的相关性了。”如果油价真的跌到这个水平,那么石油开采商、供应商和其他生产商持有的3万亿美元的债务“就将面临严重的违约风险”。毕可安指出,上一次油价大跌时,银行股的股价也下跌了20%,就是由于市场担心他们向能源行业提供的贷款可能违约。毕可安认为,油价大跌会带来一个信贷问题,它波及的范围或许没有次贷危机那么大,但其危害仍然是极大的。

总而言之,我们已经进入了一个新时代。它跟华尔街所鼓吹的并不一样。现在的经济正在被低收入增长率、成本上涨、利润缩水、政治气候对企业不利等诸多问题所困扰。当然股市也不是没有稀里糊涂地撑过去的可能,但如果你只是对股市的那段高收益的日子恋恋不舍,那你最好还是像一首歌中唱得那样;“放手吧”。华尔街上,凛冬将至。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Bianco warns that a collapse in crude prices would create credit crisis. “When the price is 45 or above, about where it is now, there’s no correlation between oil and the stock market,” says Bianco. “But when it falls to the low $30s, there’s a very high correlation.” He argues that $3 trillion in debt held by frackers, suppliers and other producers are “at serious risk of defaulting” at those levels. The last time prices tanked, he notes, bank prices fell 20%, on fears their energy loans would default. He warns that it becomes a credit problem—one that may not be as large as the sub-prime crisis, but still extremely damaging.

In conclusion, we’ve entered a new era. It’s not the one Wall Street is selling. Investors are buying into an economy beset with low revenue growth, rising costs, dwindling profits, and a political climate hostile to business. Stocks could well muddle through, but if you’re nostalgic for the past, as the song says, “Let it go.” On Wall Street, winter is coming.

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