My secondary (but no less significant) concern, which has an important bearing on stock prices, is that our economic future can be seen with far less clarity than in past cycles when the U.S. has ventured out of recession. That future has been purchased by our past policies of overindulgence, disregard for risk and lack of forethought.
Not surprisingly, the economic permabulls like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past, but the fault I see in using previous recessionary examples is that history (and those charts) fails to recognize that it is different this time on so many fronts but particularly as it relates to the accumulation of debt and credit. By contrast, the realists see the aforementioned past policies and argue (perhaps more correctly) that the past is gone, the present is full of confusion and that the future scares the hell out of them.
For decades, U.S. investors have seen the hereafter as an expected gift, but, in reality, the future is earned -- it is based on achievement. Unfortunately, never has a generation spent so much of our children's wealth in such a short period of time with so little to show for it.
There will be broad-based social, political, credit, economic and stock market ramifications from the economic and market jolts of the last 18 months, some of which are enumerated below. Few of these are P/E-multiple-elevating developments, and the emerging trends (if accurate) will likely produce an uncertainty of outcomes that make it difficult to glibly conclude that the market's dramatic decline has now been fully discounted and almost certainly questions the market's intermediate-term upside.