Expectations of a stronger economy count as a positive development for companies’ earnings prospects, but they are pushing long-term interest rates higher, with the 10-year Treasury recently yielding 1.41% versus 0.93% at the start of the year. That isn’t unusual, since long-term rates typically go up as the economy’s prospects improve, but then again stocks haven’t tended to be as expensive at the start of recoveries as they are now.
The S&P 500 trades at about 22 times analysts’ expected earnings over the next year, according to FactSet, which is close to its highest forward price-earnings ratio in 20 years. In December 2009, six months after the last recession ended, the S&Ps forward P/E ratio was about 14.
As a result, even relatively modest moves upward in Treasury yields, and therefore the relative attractiveness of bonds to stocks, can cause market spasms. This is particularly true of the richly valued technology shares that have been among the biggest market winners since last spring.
Author(s): Justin Lahart
Publication Date: 3 March 2021
Publication Site: Wall Street Journal