Historically, two factors have made important contributions to stock market returns in the years following U.S. recessions. One of these that we review frequently is valuation. Very simply, depressed valuations have historically been predictably followed by above-average total returns over the following 7-10 year period (though not necessarily over very short periods of time), while elevated valuations have been predictably followed by below-average total returns.
Thus, when we look at the dividend yield of the S&P 500 at the end of U.S. recessions since 1940, we find that the average yield has been about 4.25% (the yield at the market's low was invariably even higher).
Presently, the dividend yield on the S&P 500 is about half that, at 2.14%, placing the S&P 500 price/dividend ratio at about double the level that is normally seen at the end of U.S. recessions (even presuming the recession is in fact ending, of which I remain doubtful). At the March low, the yield on the S&P 500 didn't even crack 3.65%. Similarly, the price-to-revenue ratio on the S&P 500 at the end of recessions has been about 40% lower than it is today, and has been lower still at the actual bear market trough. The same is true of valuations in relation to normalized earnings, even though the market looked reasonably cheap in March based on the ratio of the S&P 500 to 2007 peak earnings (which were driven by profit margins about 50% above the historical norm).