Are U.S. markets soaring to new highs for the right reasons, or are we in a stock market bubble?
But Nobel Laureate and Yale professor of economics Robert Shiller told Goldman Sachs on May 29 that while he isn't certain people have the extravagant expectations you'd find in a "classic bubble," "there is a stock bubble element in what we see."
Typically, stock market bubbles stem from heightened expectations – but this bubble is the opposite. Instead, people have extraordinarily heightened fears about markets right now.
"I detect a tinge of anxiety and insecurity now that is a factor in markets, which is quite different from other market booms historically," Shiller said.
You see, Shiller frequently polls institutional and individual investors about confidence in the stock market. He asks, "Do you think the stock market is overvalued, undervalued, or about right?"
"Lately, what I call 'valuation confidence' captured by this question has been on a downward trend, and for individual investors recently reached its lowest point since the stock market peak in 2000," Shiller told Goldman Sachs. "The fact that people don't believe in the valuation of the market is a source of concern and might be a symptom of a bubble, though I don't know that we have enough data to provide it is a bubble."
When people are fearful, they tend to want to protect themselves by saving more for retirement and other safety nets. However, they're faced with limited options for high return. And so they invest in overvalued equities, which in turn run up prices even more.
Money Morning Special Contributor Michael E. Lewitt has been saying stocks are overvalued since November 2014.
"Since November, I've predicted the U.S. economy would experience a 'growth scare' in 2015," he said on March 22, 2015. "Since then, bond yields have plunged and commodity prices have collapsed. Only stocks have failed to figure out that low growth is a recipe for coming disaster."
Lewitt warned that just because the Fed is terrified to raise interest rates doesn't mean investors should pour money into already overvalued stocks.
Bottom Line: Are we in a stock market bubble? We are, in the very least, flirting with one. Lewitt recommends investors take immediate steps to protect their portfolios from losses.
"If you can't bear to sell your stocks, hedge your portfolio by buying ProShares Short S&P 500 ETF (NYSE Arca: SH) to soften the blow of an inevitable correction," Lewitt said. "Also, look to buy gold now that it has sold off due to the stronger dollar."
No matter where markets are headed in coming months, owning gold is an important part of a healthy portfolio. Check out our chief investment strategist's two-part "cheat sheet" that will help you figure out exactly how much gold you should own, to the dollar, here…
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- Business Insider: This Would Make Me Worried About a Stock Market Bubble