Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stock Market Rolling Returns vs. Price/Earnings (P/E) Ratio Graphs

(Last updated Sept 2020)
In this post, we are going to continue our investigation of stock market rolling returns. In previous posts, we have looked at the range of stock market returns over periods of from one to 100 years, and drilled down to look at "rolling" returns from two to 50 years. The rolling returns series was fascinating, to me anyway, because I was surprised by the cyclicality -- especially by the regularity of the 10-year rolling returns cyclicality. In addition, I expected the cyclicality to wash out by the time we got to 50-year rolling returns. It did not.

The obvious question is what is causing the cyclicality?

Stock Market 10-Year Rolling Returns vs. Price-to-Earnings (P/E) Ratio Graph

Stock market history: price/earnings (p/e) ratio vs next 10-year returns 2020
Dow Rolling 10-Year Returns vs. P/E
Above is a graph (click to expand) of the 10-year total return of the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) compared to my normalized P/E ratio. If there is a chart that I find even more fascinating than the 10-year rolling returns chart, it's this one. Each point on the rolling return graph represents the average annual return earned by an investor who bought the Dow at that year-end and sold 10 years later, reinvesting dividends in the interim. For example, the first point on the graph shows that an investor who bought at year-end 1901, reinvested dividends annually, and sold at year-end 1911 earned 7.9% per year. The last point represents an investor who bought at year-end 2009 and sold at year-end 2019 - the last year for which we have data.

The dotted line is the normalized price/earnings ratio (NPE) at the time of purchase. The NPE in 1901 was 14.2. This is calculated as the Dow price divided by the average earnings from 1896 through 1906. The earnings in the years prior to 1929 have been estimated. (Note: For a more detailed discussion of NPE, see About Normalized P/E Ratios.)

Normalized Price-to-Earnings Ratio and Returns for the Next 10 Years

It certainly appears that the 10-year return graph is very close to a mirror image of the normalized price-to-earnings graph. That is, when NPE goes up, returns tend to go down -- and vice versa. To the extent that is true, the message would be that the normalized P/E ratio (NPE) at time of purchase is a major determinant of 10-year returns. More specifically, Dow history shows high initial NPEs are associated with below average future returns; low initial NPEs are associated with above average future returns.

For example, the highest NPE (32.8) was in 1928, and so was the lowest 10-year average return. That 10-year return, -1.3% per year, was the only negative 10-year return in our database -- so far. You might be interested to know that the highest recent NPE, and third highest NPE overall (28.0), was in 1999. However, in that case the 10-year results were positive - though barely (+1.3% per year). 

(Note: For a look at the impact of P/E independent of time, see Initial P/E vs 10-Year Returns. To see the impact in dollars, see the dollar impact of p/e ratios on 10-year market returns.)

Stock Market 20-Year Rolling Returns vs. P/E Ratio Graph

Stock market history: valuation vs next 20-year performance 2020

Dow Rolling 20-Year Returns vs P/E

Above is the same chart as before (click to expand), but for rolling 20-year returns -- just to show that the first one isn't a fluke. I'm not including the 5 and 50-year charts. However, they convey the same basic message.

Using Valuation (P/E) to "Predict" Future Returns

This post provides visual evidence of the impact of valuation (specifically, price/earnings ratio) on future stock market performance. The Extraordinary Impact of P/E Ratios provides a different graphic representation of this same phenomenon, and also provides a method for quantifying the impact of multiple expansion/contraction.

Combined, the above posts provide compelling motivation to investigate ways to use valuation to forecast future stock market performance and results. The relationships displayed here are fundamental to the methodology I have sometimes used to project stock market returns for the next 10 years.

Note: The above charts are based on the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average). Results would be essentially the same if we used S&P 500 data.

Related Posts

Initial P/E Ratio vs 10-Year Stock Market Returns, and Initial P/E Ratio vs 20-Year Stock Market Returns: for a different look at the historical relationship between P/E and future returns.
Projecting Stock Market Returns: Taking advantage of the relationship between P/E and future returns to project returns for the next 10 years.
How Much Will a $10,000 Stock Market Investment Grow to in 10 Years?: looks at the variability in the size of the ending portfolios resulting from the varying 10-year returns above.
What Will a $10,000 Stock Market Investment be Worth in 20 Years?: similar, but for 20 years.
Stock Market 10-Year Rolling Returns Analysis of the 10-year returns.
Stock Market 20-Year Rolling Returns Analysis of the 20-year returns.

For lists of other posts, by category, see the drop down list (mobile viewers) or tabs (computer viewers) just below the blog header at the top of the page. There are additional links in the sidebar if your device supports sidebars.

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Copyright © 2009. Last modified 9/12/2020


Stock market history: price/earnings (p/e) ratio vs next 10-year returns Stock market history: valuation vs next 20-year performance


  1. Why has GDP only gone down 2.7% in the last 12 months when corporate revenues are down double digits and sales tax revenue is down double digits? I don't get it. If the consumer is 70% of GDP and the consumer has reduced spending by more than 10% ... why hasn't GDP gone down more? Is there something I am missing?

  2. I'm not sure where you're getting your data, so it's not absolutely clear to me what's included and excluded in some of your numbers. Equally important, you're getting outside my areas of expertise. However, if I remember correctly, GDP = consumption + investment + government spending + net exports. That suggests the culprit must be in the last 3 elements of the equation.

    Government spending is obviously way up. Similarly, imports are way down, so net exports (exports - imports) are up. Also, for some time periods I expect you'll see a lot of production to replenish inventory.

    Here's an article I found that you may find interesting.


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