- Goldman Sachs said fears of a bubble in markets are overblown, despite a few concerning signs.
- The Wall Street giant’s analysts gave 8 reasons why, including lower levels of leverage and risk-taking.
- They also said the boom in tech stocks has a firmer basis than the dotcom bubble of the 1990s.
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But Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note on Monday fears about bubbles are overblown. There are a few worrying signs, but markets now appear much safer than during the dotcom crash, or 2008 financial crisis, they said.
Here are the 8 key reasons investors should not be overly concerned about the recent market frothiness, according to Goldman analysts including Peter Oppenheimer and Sharon Bell.
1. The stock-market rally is driven more by fundamental factors than investor craziness
Past bubbles such as the dotcom boom of the late 1990s saw investors drive up asset prices with little rational basis, with buying frenzies triggered by the fear of missing out.
Goldman said the rise in stock prices over the last few years, particularly in tech, “has been impressive… but it is not nearly as extreme as the explosive rise that accrued during the late 1990s.”
The rally in tech firms can mostly be justified by “superior growth and fundamentals,” the note said, with earnings far outstripping the rest of the market.
2. The key ‘equity risk premium’ measure does not look worrying
Goldman said much of the market frothiness is explained by record-low interest rates around the world.
The bank’s analysts pointed to a key measure of stock value, the equity-risk premium. This is the extra return investors get on stocks compared to holding risk-free bonds.
Goldman said in the bubble of the late 1990s, investors were so confident about growth they were prepared to buy stocks offering a dividend yield of 1% when they could make 6.5% holding bonds.
But record-low interest rates and better prospects today mean the equity-risk premium is higher, suggesting investors are much more justified in bidding up stocks.
3. Market concentration has increased – but is not dangerous
Goldman said Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google are increasingly dominant, with a market capitalization nearly 3 times the annual GDP of India.
But the bank’s analysts said such a concentration “has reflected strong fundamental growth, rather than the hope, or promise, of returns far into the future.” This suggests it is far more sustainable than in previous asset rallies.
4. A big jump in retail trading has followed years of outflows from equities
The GameStop saga in January brought the power of retail investors to the attention of Wall Street.
Goldman said the rise in amateur investing has indeed “been breathtaking.” And it said one of its key measures of risk-taking has hit a level associated with a 10% drop in stock markets.
Yet the analysts said: “While flows have been significant of late, we have come from many years of outflows from risk assets like equities.”
5. Credit is cheap, but investors aren’t being overly risky
Central bank interest rates are at record lows, as were bond yields until recently, making borrowing very cheap.
But Goldman said speculative bubbles are associated with banks and companies funding risky activities through debt, and a collapse in household savings, which “is not the case today.”
Banks are very strong thanks to post-crisis reforms, the note said. US households have accumulated around $1.5 trillion in savings during COVID-19, the bank said.
6. Mergers and acquisitions are booming from a low base
The mania for special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, has many investors worried about frothy markets.
Goldman said: “Booming M&A activity and equity issuance are reminiscent of activity rates in previous cycles.”
But it added activity does not appear excessive “when adjusted for the market capitalization of equity markets.”
7. The surge in certain sectors is driven by profitable companies
Market bubbles are often driven by a craze for new technologies, such as the internet in the dotcom era.
Goldman said tech and green stocks have indeed boomed. But the analysts said a fall in these stocks should not lead to widespread company collapses, as most of them are profitable.
8. Stocks are rising as economies recover from a slump
The Wall Street bank said the powerful rally in stocks from March to September last year was typical of a “hope” phase of a bull-market run after an economic slump.
“This phase is generally followed by what we call the ‘growth’ phase,” they said, when earnings pick up, although there could be bumps along the way.