PE ratio stands at 22 – the high end of a range since the 1930’s

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Today’s chart illustrates how the recent rise in earnings has impacted the current valuation of the stock market as measured by the price to earnings ratio (PE ratio). Generally speaking, when the PE ratio is high, stocks are considered to be expensive. When the PE ratio is low, stocks are considered to be inexpensive. From 1936 into the early 1990s, the PE ratio tended to peak in the low 20s (red line) and trough somewhere around seven (green line). The price investors were willing to pay for a dollar of earnings increased during the dot-com boom (late 1990s), surged even higher during the dot-com bust (early 2000s), and spiked to nosebleed levels during the financial crisis (late 2000s). Currently, with 99% of US corporations having reported for Q4 2009, the PE ratio stands at 22 which is at the high end of a range that existed from the mid-1930s up until the early 1990s.

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