It’s probably not the best time to talk about this — not with the stock market suffering its longest sustained selloff of the year — but even a middling scenario lifts the Dow Jones Industrial Average to 20,000 in about five years, at least by AllianceBernstein’s reckoning.
Sounds crazy, of course. It’s a bit to close to the whole “Dow 36,000″ call of the late dot-com boom — and bust — days.
But AllianceBernstein’s Bernstein Global Wealth Management unit made that call back in July 2012, and at least so far, it’s on track. The Dow is, after all, up more than 20% since then.
More importantly, Dow 20,000 by late 2018 would represent only about a 33% increase from current levels.
Put another way, that’s an annualized gain of about 6%.
When you think about it that way — 6% annualized — Dow 20,000 sounds more doable. Furthermore, the forecast depends on only middle-of-the-road, or median, market conditions, notes Seth Masters, chief investment officer of Bernstein Global Wealth. Have a look at Bernstein’s projected range of market outcomes below:
The chart shows a wide range of trajectories, but the median performance puts the Dow at 20,000 in fairly short order. Furthermore, that’s the statistically median forecast after accounting for a large number of variables.
Heck, we could get to that lofty level even sooner. As Master’s notes:
“As always, our projected range of outcomes for stocks reflects thousands of plausible economic and capital market scenarios, some of them very grim. Persistent deflation or a sharp run-up in inflation, for example, could delay the Dow’s reaching 20,000 by many years, but we think the odds of either are slim. By the same token, if economic and earnings growth accelerates sharply, the market could roar ahead, possibly reaching our target as soon as late 2014.”
Interestingly, today’s biggest market worry — rising interest rates — shouldn’t be bad for stocks either. True, taper fears are causing bond yields to spike and weighing on stocks, but farther out, it’s not a death knell for equities. Writes Masters:
“The stock market has rallied in most historical periods of rising interest rates, as both the stock and bond markets priced in expectations of stronger economic growth. The exceptions were a few periods when inflation was getting out of control, most notably in the 1970s. History suggests that inflation below 5% or so is unlikely to be bad for stocks. And inflation for the time being remains very subdued.”
True, stocks are more expensive than they were a year ago, but at 14 times forward earnings, they’re by no means expensive, Masters says. Additionally, corporate balance sheets are very strong, with a net debt-to-equity ratio of 34% — far below the 63% of the October 2007 market peak.
“So even with the rally over the past year, U.S. stocks are not overpriced or overleveraged, and remain more attractive than at prior peaks,” Masters notes.
As of this writing, Dan Burrows did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.