Editor’s note: Last Wednesday night was the annual Rocktoberfest event in New York, featuring musical performances from financial services professionals. The event raised over $400,000 to benefit A Leg to Stand On, a non-profit organization that provides free orthopedic care – including prosthetic limbs and corrective surgery and rehabilitative care – to children in the developing world.
Yahoo Finance was a media sponsor of Rocktoberfest this year and kicked off the event with a VIP Roundtable that included Liz Ann Sonders of Charles Schwab, Sallie Krawcheck of 85 Broads, and Ray Nolte of SkyBridge Capital. The accompanying video was taped at the event.
Stocks were rising midday Tuesday, putting the S&P 500 on track for its 33rd record close of the year, and seventh in the past nine sessions. The benchmark index for U.S. large-cap stocks is up 24% year to date and a whopping 165% from its devilish March 2009 low of 666.
Given the size and duration of the rally, it’s tempting to assume the S&P is overextended and due to pause -- if not something far worse. Certainly, the consensus among most market watchers is the bull market is nearing the end of its run. But what if that’s wrong? What if the same folks who’ve been wrong about the market being ‘overextended’ since it started rallying in 2009 are wrong again about the rally nearing its end?
“We could chop around in the near-term but I think we’re still only in the middle innings of this bull market,” says Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. “I think what started in March 2009 was the beginning of a secular bull market not just a cyclical bull.”
It might sound like semantics, but describing this as a “secular” (i.e. long-term) bull market vs. a mere cyclical one is a very big deal in the world of market punditry; it’s the equivalent of Copernicus saying the earth revolves around the sun vs. the other way around.
According to The Big Picture blog, citing data from Fidelity, the average secular bull market lasts 21.2 years, P/Es more or less double and produced average annual returns of 17.2% in nominal terms and 15.9% in real terms.
Sonders, who described her sanguine view on valuations in a recent Daily Ticker appearance, says sentiment is key to her long-term optimism for stocks.
“I don’t think this market has captured anywhere near the hearts and minds of investors that tend to mark the end of bull markets,” she says. “There’s no cohort that’s hog wild here – it’s not individuals, not hedge funds, not fiduciaries.”