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Are Stocks Good for the Long Run? Ritholtz vs Siegel

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Stocks have surged to multi-year highs this year, bittersweet news to investors who have shifted a record amount of money out of stocks and into bonds and bond ETFs.

The last few years have not been kind to investors and many are still leery of risky assets like equities. Despite trading at 5-year highs, stocks are still relatively unchanged from where they were a decade ago, making this something of a lost generation for equity investors. The "stocks versus bonds" question may be ancient but it has never been more apropos.

Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of the investing manual "Stocks for the Long Run" joined Fusion IQ's Barry Ritholtz to discuss this hotly contested subject.

The 30-year bull market in bonds hasn't changed Siegel's bullish stance on equities. He notes that bonds (referring specifically to the 20-year Treasury bill) beat the S&P 500 Index (GSPC) by a mere .04% over that 30-year time frame that ended Dec. 31, 2011. He still promotes stocks as the best way to earn high returns and says he "cannot see bonds in a long-term portfolio."

Ritholtz, who has tussled with Siegel in the past about stocks, sees the current secular bear market lasting another two to three years. He reduced his exposure to equities in 2009 and has a 60/40 ratio of stocks to bonds in his clients' portfolios. He recommends a healthy mix of both stocks and bonds. This positioning gives him exposure to upside moves but mutes the risk of sudden shocks in the market (and the economy).

Siegel and Ritholtz may never put to rest their differences on equities but the two at least have found common ground. Both agree that the current 14 P/E (price over earnings) ratio has made stocks attractive. Ritholtz quickly points out that this "artificial P/E" environment could become more challenging when the Federal Reserve and other central bankers become less accommodative.

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