JSE PE ratios heading higher

The stock market combined index climbed from 82,934.95 points at the end of 2013 to 324,801.52 on Friday, for increase of 292 percent but the average PE ratio has moved from 7.3 by just under 100 percent to peak at an average of 14.5 times last year December.
During the same period, Treasury bill rates tumbled 75 percent from just over 8 percent to 2 percent or were 300 percent more than they are now. While the fall in interest rate would appear to be close to the rise in the market index, the much slower increase in the PE ratio indicates that the major part of the rise is due to increased profits.
Based on the trends in interest rates and PE ratios, coupled with the serious shortage of supply of several stocks, currently, the PE ratio of the market will rise from the current level of 12.5, first to the high of 14.5 reached at the end of December last year and should move on to around 17 to 18 by the end of the year or early 2019.
A look at the chart, indicates that investors are more cautious in moving stock valuation higher. The PE ratio seems to be moving higher each year since the sharp jump in 2015, suggesting that the increase in PE is not yet over. The other factor is that interest rates have fallen faster in 2018 than for some time, investors seem to need more time to digest the rapid change in rates and determine how long it likely to remain at very low levels.
The big question to come will be, when will interest rates start to reverse? If the PE hits 17 by year end, it would represent an approximate 35 percent increase from current levels. Quite a number of stocks are selling above the average of 12.5 presently. A total of 24 stocks in both markets trade above 12.5 and 7 each in the main market and Junior Market selling above 16 times current year’s earnings.

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