There were plenty of powerful investment storylines from the past decade...
We had the rise of the "FAANG" stocks, the painfully slow growth coming out of the financial crisis, and the global dominance of U.S. markets, just to name a few.
But if you were to sum up investor behavior from that period into a single idea, it'd be "TINA"... or "There Is No Alternative."
This simple phrase describes a critical dynamic: When interest rates were at historic lows, investors had to buy stocks. There was no other way to make money. There was no alternative.
Fast-forward to today, though, and investors face a new reality. Interest rates have soared... which means assets like bonds can offer much higher yields.
In short, a new investment era just began... one where stocks have real competition.
You might think that in this environment, buying stocks isn't worth the risk at all. But a closer look shows that this change might not be the death knell for the stock market that many expect.
Let me explain...
In the world of TINA, investment choices didn't exist.
Most bonds paid close to zero percent interest. Your only hope of making money was for rates to fall further, leading to capital gains... But making a bet like that in bonds was about on par with risking money in the stock market.
In short, you couldn't earn a safe yield anywhere. So investors poured into stocks.
Today, it's a different world entirely. The 10-year Treasury yield is roughly 4.9% as I write. And that makes bonds a better deal than stocks for the first time in decades.
To see this, I compared the 10-year Treasury yield with the S&P 500 Index earnings yield...
The earnings yield is a simple way to measure the yield of stocks. You can find it by taking the inverse of the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio... If stocks trade for a 20 P/E ratio, the earnings yield is 1/20, or 5%.
Stocks carry inherent risks... So, normally, the earnings yield should be higher than the 10-year Treasury yield. But the yield on long-term bonds recently surpassed the earnings yield on stocks for the first time since 2002. Take a look...
This chart shows the S&P 500 earnings yield minus the 10-year Treasury yield since 1963 – or the spread between the two.
A positive spread means stocks are cheap compared with bonds. And a negative spread means stocks are more expensive.
We've had a positive spread for the past 20 years. Now, with Treasury yields soaring, the regime has changed. Investors finally have an alternative to stocks.
You might think that's a bad sign for the stock market. But history isn't necessarily clear one way or the other...
The last time this spread went from positive to negative was in 1980. Markets were rocky for a couple of years after that. But then, a multidecade bull market kicked off.
Stocks soared nearly uninterrupted to their dot-com-boom peak... And the spread was negative practically the entire time.
However, the example before that shows the opposite...
The spread also turned negative in 1967. That was near the end of a major bull market. And the spread stayed negative nearly the whole time through 1973 – or darn close to the bottom of a painful bear market.
Here's how we should read this signal: Major competition alone isn't purely good or bad for stocks. What matters is the general state of the market.
Stocks do fine with some competition from bonds if the economy is healthy and fundamentals are strong. For now, the economy is still holding up better than anyone expected – even in the face of rising rates.
TINA might be dead. And a new investment era is just beginning. But that doesn't mean stocks have to crash. Instead, the fundamentals say higher prices are likely from here.
P.S. Most folks haven't seen a market like this in their investing lifetimes. I know a lot of our readers are feeling the uncertainty. If that's you, I hope you'll join us online today at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time...
Our company is airing an exclusive interview with Porter Stansberry, founder of Stansberry Research. Porter's track record of nailing big market calls is nothing short of impressive. Now, he's warning investors that a crisis is brewing in key corners of the market. And you'll want to hear what it means for you – because he won't just share how to position yourself for safety...
Porter will also reveal the top steps you can take to actually prosper... and take advantage of uncertainty while others are struggling.
Most people will find a reason not to use this strategy. So take this chance to learn all you can, and tune in this afternoon... Sign up to watch the interview right here.
"Many of today's investors fail to realize the importance of different 'epochs,'" Dan Ferris says. Stocks soared in the age of "easy money." This high-interest-rate environment is a more complicated time to be an investor. And while it likely won't be the death knell for the stock market, you may need different tools to succeed... Read more here.
"An inverted yield curve has been a useful recession signal for decades," Brett writes. "But after nearly a year, it's starting to look like the boy who cried wolf." This measure has been in the "warning" zone for its longest streak ever – but we haven't seen a recession yet. Here's what to make of it... Learn more here.