Steve Bradshaw's Reviews > Stocks for the Long Run

Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy J. Siegel
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May 16, 11

bookshelves: investment
Read from May 06 to 16, 2011

A solid (yet very bullish) defense of long-term investing (for investors with a horizon of 20 years or more). Read with care! If your investment horizon is less (even if its 10 or 15 years) this book must be read in combination with Robert Shiller's Irrational Exuberance. Shiller explains how the business cycle can produce devastating returns even to those following relatively conservative strategies over periods less than 20 years when they invest at times of high P/E and B/V ratios and low dividend yields (i.e. near the peak of a stock market bubble) - conditions such as we find today.

With this in mind, Siegel provides some interesting thoughts and some great analysis on 200 years of data. It's interesting how much better the risk profile of stocks has been versus bonds over longer periods (>20 years) during the last 100 years. This has been due to unexpected yet devastating periods of inflation that come along more often than people realize and wipe out real returns on bonds (stocks fare better over the long term given their link to real assets).

An interesting section on the book discussed reasons why the average Shiller P/E (that divides current prices by 10 years of earnings data) should be at a higher level than the historic average of 16x - perhaps something more like 20x (we are at 24x as of May 2011) due to structural reasons such as reduced capital gains taxes, decreased earnings volatility in the business cycle, lower dividend payout ratios and a more-aggressive fed that won't let 1929 happen again, In Irrational Exuberance, Shiller provides an excellent defense against these arguments that are actually a lot weaker than they sound in Siegel's hands, as well as a few negative factors not contemplated by Siegel. That said, Siegel's key points are worth reading and considering - perhaps a level between the two authors is an appropriate yardstick going forward.

I was concerned to find chapters toward the end of the book on calendar stock market effects and technical and momentum investing strategies - things that should clearly not find a place in a book titled "stocks for the long run"!

Despite, weakening substantially toward the end of the book and the author's clearly bullish bias (one that has cost a lot of investors a lot of money given the books first release in 1994!) I found this an interesting companion to the likes of Shiller, Klarman, Montier and Graham and would recommend it those interested in learning what different asset classes have done over the last 200 years and what realistic expectations could be going forward.
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