1. How to use GuruFocus - Tutorials
  2. What Is in the GuruFocus Premium Membership?
  3. A DIY Guide on How to Invest Using Guru Strategies
Articles (1311) 

Hussman Weekly: Distinction Without a Difference

October 29, 2012

In recent weeks, market conditions have fallen into a cluster of historical instances that have been associated with average market losses approaching -50% at an annualized rate. Of course, such conditions don’t generally persist for more than several weeks – the general outcome is a hard initial decline and then a transition to a less severe average rate of market weakness (the word “average” is important as the individual outcomes certainly aren’t uniformly negative on a week-to-week basis). Last week, our estimates of prospective market return/risk improved slightly, to a level that has historically been associated with market losses at an annualized rate of about -30%. Though that improvement falls into the category of a distinction without a difference, at least we can say that conditions are not the most negative on record. Over the course of the coming cycle, I expect that we will easily observe conditions among the many favorable clusters in the historical record, where we will not face the syndromes of hostile conditions we’ve seen recently (e.g. overvalued, overbought, overbullish, yields rising). Valuations, though rich, are nowhere near where they were in 2000, and even the tepid valuations of early 2003 provided ample opportunity to accept market risk without the need for significant hedging. Unlike 2009, the next cycle will not unexpectedly present us with the need to capture Depression-era data in our approach (which we’ve addressed). Even without significant undervaluation, there are many combinations of market conditions that have historically been associated with strong subsequent market returns, on average.


On the subject of deficits, the situation in Japan seems increasingly strained. The gross debt/GDP ratio in Japan is now about 225%, and net debt (which excludes debt held by the government itself for monetary, pension and other reasons) is about 130%. During the entire post-war period, Japan has enjoyed a significant trade surplus, which has allowed it to run growing government deficits. Meanwhile, household savings have declined from nearly 15% in the 1990’s to next-to-nothing today. Needless to say, that large and persistent trade surplus has enabled economic dynamics that normally would not be sustainable. But over the past year, Japan has fallen into a trade deficit, which has deepened recently due in part to tensions with China. We are now observing an ominous combination of a significant trade deficit, a deep government deficit, non-existent household savings, a steep debt/GDP ratio, and a contraction in both manufacturing and service sectors according to the latest purchasing manager’s surveys out of Japan. While Europe remains our primary source of concern, I am concerned that both China and Japan are likely to have a more destabilizing impact than is widely assumed.

Read the complete commentary

Rating: 3.1/5 (9 votes)


Please leave your comment:

Performances of the stocks mentioned by GuruFocus

User Generated Screeners

andrewgu999valleylink - gogogo
DBrizanROTA ultimate18nov2017 1041p
DBrizanROTA18nov2017 1041p
DBrizanROTA18nov2017 1035p
DBrizanROTA18nov2017 1032p
DBrizanROTA18nov2017 1025p
averacjrnot about to fail
Get WordPress Plugins for easy affiliate links on Stock Tickers and Guru Names | Earn affiliate commissions by embedding GuruFocus Charts
GuruFocus Affiliate Program: Earn up to $400 per referral. ( Learn More)

GF Chat