A trader wearing a 'Dow 25,000' hat Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The World’s Priciest Stock Market

It is impossible to pin down the full cause of the high price of the US stock market. That alone should remind all investors of the importance of diversification, and that the overall US stock market should not be given too much weight in a portfolio.

NEW HAVEN – The level of stock markets differs widely across countries. And right now, the United States is leading the world. What everyone wants to know is why – and whether its stock market’s current level is justified.

We can get a simple intuitive measure of the differences between countries by looking at price-earnings ratios. I have long advocated the cyclically adjusted price-earnings (CAPE) ratio that John Campbell (now at Harvard University) and I developed 30 years ago.

The CAPE ratio is the real (inflation-adjusted) price of a share divided by a ten-year average of real earnings per share. Barclays Bank in London compiles the CAPE ratios for 26 countries (I consult for Barclays on its products related to the CAPE ratio). As of December 29, the CAPE ratio is highest for the US.

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