Market capitalization as a percentage of (US) GNP is climbing and some commentators have been predicting a reversion to the mean — a substantial fall in market cap.
But corporate profits have been climbing at a similar rate.
Wages surged as a percentage of value added in the first quarter (2014) and profit margins fell sharply, adding fresh impetus to the bear outlook. But margins recovered to 10.6% in the second quarter.
Further gains in the third quarter would suggest that profits are sustainable. Research by Morgan Stanley supports this view, revealing that improved profit margins are largely attributable to the top 50 mega-corporations in the US:
Mega cap companies (the largest 50 by size) have been able to pull their margins away from the smaller companies through globalization, productivity, scale, cost of capital, and taxes, among other reasons. We argue against frameworks that call for near-term mean reversion and base equity return algorithms off the concept of overearning. Why? The margins for the mega cap cohort in the last two downturns of 2001 and 2008 were well above the HIGHEST margins achieved during the 1974-1994 period. To us, this is a powerful indication that the mega cap cohort is unlikely to mean revert back to the 1970s to 1990s average level.
(From Sam Ro at Business Insider)
Also interesting is The Bank of England’s surprise at the lack of inflation in response to falling unemployment. One would expect wage rates to rise when slack is taken up in the labor market, but this has failed to materialize. It may be that unemployment is understated — and a rising participation rate will keep the lid on wages. If this happens in the US it would add further support for sustainable profit margins.