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The Manley Macro Memo

The Massive Stimulus, Successful Vaccine Rollout, and Better than Expected Growth Drove the S&P 500 to a Record High in March

Since the March 2020 Pandemic-low, the S&P 500 has been on a historic run. Unfortunately, most of this rally was due to a record increase in market valuation. According to Factset, the forward 12-month P/E ratio for the S&P 500 is 22.5, which is 41.5% above the 10-year average of 15.9. By most valuation measurements, the market has never been more expensive (see table below). We believe that this extreme overvaluation will yield muted gains and create a poor risk-reward over the long term.

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Rising Inflation Expectations and Higher Interest Rates are Causing the Bifricated Stock Market to Mean Revert

Despite the S&P 500’s overvaluation and poor risk-reward, we believe the bifurcated economy and stock market provide substantial opportunities in 2021. The mega-cap technology and the “stay at home” stocks prospered in 2020, but today their valuations are extreme, and difficult year-over-year comparisons will slow their growth rates. We believe that the market sectors that thrived during the shutdown are at risk as the vaccine is administered and the economy reopens this spring/summer.

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The Fed Response to the Global Pandemic Led to Asset Bubbles, and a Bifricated Market and Economy. We Believe the Market is Poised to Mean Revert

2020 was a difficult and trying year. The Coronavirus took more than 400,000 American lives, and the ensuing economic shutdown led to 17 million job losses and 4 million business closures. Incredibly, 20% of Americans’ income came from the government last year.

While Main Street suffered, Wall Street prospered. The S&P 500 appreciated by 18.4% in 2020, and the NASDAQ Composite jumped 44%, which was its best year since 2009. We believe that the Federal Reserve’s $3 trillion liquidity injection is responsible for the disconnection between asset prices and the fundamentals.

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Its Time to Consider a Roth Conversion

It is a great time to consider a Roth Conversion (converting your 401K or Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA) because tax rates are unlikely to be this low again. In December 2017, Congress passed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which reduced tax rates to today’s historically low level.

While these tax cuts are scheduled to expire in 2025, the massive budget deficit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the unprecedented national debt burden, and the aging of the Baby Boomer generation may lead to higher taxes sooner – especially if the Democrats win the Georgia Senate run-off in January.

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The Manley Macro Memo