Just some numbers

I recall hearing that the average annual return of the market is around 11%, so I went looking and found this…

The current average annual return from 1926, the year of the S&P’s inception, through 2011 is 11.69%. From 1992–2011, the S&P’s average is 9.07%. From 1987–2011, it’s 10.05%.

Right now the S&P index is around 1930, the recent high was 2134. So, how does where we are really compare to where we might expect to be based on past years? I went back the past 12 years to get a weekly close date about this time of year and the projected forward with the numbers referenced above and a “more reasonable” 7%. Below are the results. The second column shows the approximate price in late August for that year. The other columns show where the index would be had it grown steadily at the rate indicated.

Year	S&P 500	11.69%	10.05%	9.07%	7%
2014	2000	2234	2201	2181	2140
2013	1635	2040	1980	1945	1872
2012	1410	1965	1879	1830	1727
2011	1219	1897	1788	1725	1598
2010	1080	1877	1743	1667	1515
2009	995	1932	1768	1675	1493
2008	1275	2764	2493	2341	2047
2007	1464	3545	3150	2932	2515
2006	1305	3530	3090	2851	2399
2005	1220	3686	3179	2907	2400
2004	1106	3732	3171	2874	2328
2003	997	3757	3146	2826	2245

As you can see, in most cases the index would actually be higher than it is now. So why does there seem to be so many who are concerned that prices have gone up too much and we’re in another bubble? I’m sure it depends on how one chooses to think of the numbers but I don’t see it. The only cases where the current number is above those above are ones from years where the prices had dropped dramatically due to the financial collapse. Is it reasonable to think that recovery from that period should be above average?




I believe the higher return numbers assume dividends are reinvested. That juices the compounding by a smidgeon over 3% over time.

Actual stock price appreciation (disregarding dividends) for the S&P500 is between 6% and 7% annualized, depending on your time frame. Since most of the stocks here are not paying dividends, the benchmark should be the latter instead of the former.

Tiptree, Fool One guide

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Thanks for the clarification.


The problem with any S&P modelling based on recent years is that it includes the Big Dip, a drop which was the third largest ever. Including the Tech Bubble, which you didn’t, only adds to the issue. No, one can argue that these events are evidence that the indices have become more volatile so this is the “new normal”, but that has yet to be demonstrated.

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Sage, I understand trying to get a handle on whether the market is expensive or not, but I think there are better ways to figure that out. The long term returns are based on the long term earnings of the businesses. The past earnings do not tell you a lot, there are survivor biases - the companies that do poorly do not survive, the old industrial companies required enormous amounts of capital. I am not convinced that the historical return data is all that relevant to today’s valuation.

But I think two factors are important: balance sheets and cash flow. Cash on the books net of bonds or other long term obligations is very important. We usually talk about non Gaap earnings here, but Gaap earnings are more readily available in historical data, cash flow is readily available, and harder to manulipulate than GAAP earnings.

I don’t typically look at the market as a whole, I spend my time on individual names. I am finding lots of interesting companies with great balance sheets… Way better than I have EVER seen. (Which makes sense, controllers lived through 2008-11 too) If one company has a pe of 18 and leveraged up, it is way different than a company with a pe of 18 and a quarter of its market cap in cash. But both have a pe of 18. Single metrics don’t tell you enough. I don’t care much if the Market is cheap-- I care whether my stocks are. That being said I think the market is cheap based on what I see of PEs net of cash.


I am finding lots of interesting companies with great balance sheets… Flygal

Do tell?



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