Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Most Important Chart In The World
Back in my Bernstein days, I never really took a large amount of presentation materials to most of my meetings. However, there was one chart that I always printed out and brought with me and I called it “The Most Important Chart in the World.” It still is. The chart I am referring to is the ratio of the Dow Jones Industrial Average: The Gold Price. In a nutshell, charting this ratio demonstrates the “real” return on stocks adjusted for inflation or currency debasement. As we all know, the Zimbabwe stock market essentially went up to infinity during their hyperinflation but did anyone get rich from that? Of course not, the shares were denominated in a currency that was on its way to worthlessness. At the moment, with many U.S. stock indices hitting new post-2008 highs there seems to be a general view that stocks as an asset class will do well in an inflationary environment. As a result, whenever there is actually QE or even the mention of the potential resumption of Fed balance sheet expansion there is a rally in equity prices. In fact, I think the entire investor class in the U.S. has been lulled into a sense of sleep and complacency at the moment. There are two things I want to point out to people when they are considering whether to increase exposure to equities broadly or not.