Interest rates have moved higher on increased inflation expectations given the combination of a reopening economy and crazy amounts of stimulus everywhere you look.
This rise in rates has affected growth and value stocks differently. We always break down stock returns into three components:
- +/- Valuation change.
Rising rates could lead to a headwind for any stock that’s priced for perfection, because of return driver No. 3: valuation change.
A company’s stock price is simply the value of future cash flows discounted by some interest rate. Think about the math of that: A series of cash flows that extends way into the future (the numerators), divided by an interest rate (the denominator), is a simple formula for discounting future cash flows back to today to give us a price.
For added simplicity and to hammer home the next point, let’s take one future cash flow of $100 arriving in 10 years, and discount it back to today. We will do this twice — first using 0.50% as our denominator, then using 5.0%.
Using 0.50%, today’s value of that future cash flow is roughly $95.13.
Using 5.0%, today’s value would be roughly $61.39.
Hopefully, our point is jumping out at you. The rate used to discount these cash flows is incredibly important.
The lower the discount rate, the higher the value attributed today to future cash flows of tomorrow — and vice versa.
Considering that arithmetic again, think about the market we have been in. It has been dominated by growth stocks. These are stocks that trade at premium valuations. Some are fast-growing businesses that are expected to produce more and more income. Some have cool concepts with no income at all (see our Greg Oden post). Either way, the market Is valuing future cash flows for these names at historically low rates, which has translated to high valuations.
Now, think about value stocks in the market of the past few years. They have been demolished by growth stocks, and the valuation differences are notable.
We believe rising rates may continue to affect growth more negatively than value. We are seeing that play out as large Nasdaq names have lagged the S&P in recent months. In addition, we’ve seen a few more “growthy” names with seemingly great earnings reports have not been treated favorably by the market.
At current valuations, market participants expect growth stocks to maintain extremely high growth to support these valuations, especially given the mathematical impact of discounting future cash flows at a higher rate. We think that’s a pretty high hurdle to mount. Value stocks just have to be less bad than they are expected to be — the discount rate of their future cash flows affects them to a lesser degree.
To illustrate this point at the stock level, look at the chart below on the largest stock in the S&P 500. Pulled from Bloomberg’s EQRV function, it shows the blended forward P/E multiple of Apple. This multiple is a common way to illustrate or gauge one measure of valuation.
A few things jump out.
- First, look at what 2020 did to Apple’s valuation. It went nearly vertical.
- Next, despite the reduction of valuation to start 2021, this measure of valuation is still over a standard deviation higher than the average over the last five years.
- Finally, hindsight is 20/20, but Apple sure looked cheap back in 2016!
We are using this chart to drive home our main point; We think rising rates should affect growth stocks more negatively than value stocks. In our view, valuations are sky-high and the future cash flows of these businesses are priced for near perfection.
Valuations do not increase simply because they have in the past. While many may think that to be the case, there is no way of getting around what a stock is — a claim on future cash flows. A value today is derived with simple math, with the discount rate a key input. Increase the discount rate while holding growth expectations constant, and valuations must come down.
The good news is that prices don’t have to drop for growth stock valuations to come down. They can simply stall out while the fundamentals catch up. Either way, we do believe it makes sense to have value exposure for the remainder of 2021.