The Markets

Is the “cult of equity” dying?

Since 1912, stocks have returned on average 6.6 percent per year after inflation, according to Bill Gross, the legendary bond manager from PIMCO. Recently, Gross ruffled some feathers when he wrote that the historic 6.6 percent return “is an historical freak, a mutation likely never to be seen again as far as we mortals are concerned.” Histrionics aside, Gross makes a point that deserves elaboration.

Gross believes that, in the future, less of the country’s wealth will be captured by capital (the financial markets) and more will flow to labor (as higher wages) and government (in the form of higher taxes). For the past 30 years, he said, capital markets were the big winner, as real labor wages and corporate taxes declined as a percentage of GDP. By his analysis, that will start to reverse with the capital markets being on the losing end.

Is Gross right?

Well, his chief critic, Wharton professor Jeremy Siegel, emphatically says no. In an August 2 Bloomberg interview, Siegel made the following three rebuttals to Gross:

  1. The 6.6 percent real return was similar in the 19th century in the U.S., too, so it’s not just a 20th century anomaly or “historical freak.”
  2. Other researchers have discovered non-U.S. equity markets with similar 6 to 7 percent real return averages over the past century, further supporting the idea that the U.S. is not an anomaly.
  3. Often, when the media declares “equities are dead,” that’s a sign a bull market is just around the corner – remember the infamous August 1979 BusinessWeek “The Death of Equities” cover story? Three years later, stocks took off on one of the century’s greatest secular bull markets.

So, who’s right, Gross or Siegel?

It turns out they both could be right. The key is your timeframe. Since markets fluctuate, we’ll likely see periods when the market delivers more than a 6.6 percent real return and other times when it’s less. However, simply buying and holding on for dear life hoping Gross is wrong probably isn’t the best strategy. Rather, rigorous analysis of all the investment opportunities and careful portfolio tweaking could be the solution.

Data as of 8/10/12







Standard & Poor’s 500 (Domestic Stocks)







DJ Global ex US (Foreign Stocks)







10-year Treasury Note (Yield Only)







Gold (per ounce)







DJ-UBS Commodity Index







DJ Equity All REIT TR Index







Notes: S&P 500, DJ Global ex US, Gold, DJ-UBS Commodity Index returns exclude reinvested dividends (gold does not pay a dividend) and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; the DJ Equity All REIT TR Index does include reinvested dividends and the three-, five-, and 10-year returns are annualized; and the 10-year Treasury Note is simply the yield at the close of the day on each of the historical time periods. Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Barron’s,, London Bullion Market Association. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.  N/A means not applicable.

Best regards,

Jonathan K. DeYoe

P.S.  Please feel free to forward this commentary to family, friends, or colleagues. If you would like us to add them to the list, please reply to this e-mail with their e-mail address and we will ask for their permission to be added. This newsletter was prepared by Peak Advisor Alliance.  Peak Advisor Alliance is not affiliated with the named broker/dealer. The Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. The DJ Global ex US is an unmanaged group of non-U.S. securities designed to reflect the performance of the global equity securities that have readily available prices.  The 10-year Treasury Note represents debt owed by the United States Treasury to the public. Since the U.S. Government is seen as a risk-free borrower, investors use the 10-year Treasury Note as a benchmark for the long-term bond market. Gold represents the London afternoon gold price fix as reported by the London Bullion Market Association. The DJ Commodity Index is designed to be a highly liquid and diversified benchmark for the commodity futures market. The Index is composed of futures contracts on 19 physical commodities and was launched on July 14, 1998. The DJ Equity All REIT TR Index measures the total return performance of the equity subcategory of the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) industry as calculated by Dow Jones. Yahoo! Finance is the source for any reference to the performance of an index between two specific periods. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. You cannot invest directly in an index. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision.