Stocks are now in 'complete bitcoin territory,' asset manager says

Key Points
  • Asset management firm Fasanara Capital compared stock valuations to bitcoin in that "it is totally disconnected from fundamentals," its chief executive told CNBC
  • Impending tipping point for markets is due to a synchronicity of enterprise overvaluation, high indebtedness, low cash balances and a drawback in public flows
  • Still, a major selloff hasn't arrived, and many market-watchers continue to celebrate the enduring bull run
Stretched stock valuations are in bitcoin territory: Fasanara Capital
Stretched stock valuations are in bitcoin territory: Fasanara Capital

Fragile markets are "on the edge of chaos," according to one asset management firm, which has compared what it deems an overvalued stock market to cryptocurrency bubbles.

"Stocks are in complete bitcoin territory," Francesco Filia, chief executive at asset management firm Fasanara Capital told CNBC Wednesday. The impending tipping point for markets, per Fasanara's analysis, is due to a synchronicity of enterprise overvaluation, high indebtedness, low cash balances and a drawback in flows from central banks.

"Valuations on stocks sometimes feel like bitcoin because in a way it is totally disconnected from fundamentals," Filia explained. "It's purely based on sentiment and flows from central banks and the private passive investment community."

Bitcoin is a decentralized cryptocurrency meaning that unlike fiat currencies such as the dollar, it is not backed by a central authority. Critics have said that this gives it no inherent value. Bitcoin saw huge price gains in 2017.

According to textbook valuation metrics, he stressed, valuations on indexes like the S&P 500 are some 60 percent away from where they should be. "There is not one enterprise valuation that would say that this market is properly priced."

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Filia is certainly not the first to call an overheated stock market. Many experts predict an imminent correction or even a full-blown crash, while well-known market watchers have warned that today's stock market is the most overvalued on record — more so than in 1929, 2000 and 2007.

U.S. markets closed lower after hitting record highs Tuesday as stocks appeared to continue their rip-roaring run of the past year, with the Dow Jones in 26,000-point territory and the S&P 500 at more than 2,770 points.

The comparison to cryptocurrencies is warranted "because (bitcoin) is the purchase for resale by a naive group of investors who are buying just because it's going up," Filia posited, echoing the words of Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio in September 2017. "I could well apply that to stocks," Filia added.

2017 was the peak of quantitative easing: Fasanara Capital
2017 was the peak of quantitative easing: Fasanara Capital

Still, it doesn't look like the beginning of a major sell-off, Filia admitted. "There are also true Goldilocks scenarios where the market could be right in being where they are today. But I'm still a bit skeptical," he said. A so-called Goldilocks market is an environment that is running neither too hot or too cold.

"I think valuations are ignored by the current markets, and the markets do it at their own peril," he added.

Filia's outlook is nonetheless far from universal. Many investors continue to celebrate the ongoing bull run, with banks like Morgan Stanley confidently calling for 3,000 points on the S&P 500 index in 2018 as part of a "late cycle euphoria stage."

Morgan Stanley expects continued earnings-per-share growth over the next 12 months as more sectors see benefits from the U.S. tax bill. Earnings-per-share is an important metric used by traders to gauge the value of a stock.

"Because the tax cuts occurred earlier and are larger than we expected, it is more likely the S&P 500 will reach our bull case of 3,000 before it's over," the bank said in a research note Tuesday, though it did not make any calls beyond 2018.

Bank of America Chief Equity Strategist Stephen Suttmeier similarly predicts further stock market gains ahead. He pointed to a breakout in the advance-decline line for the S&P 500, which tracks the 15 most heavily traded stocks by share volume, as providing a technical case for a rally through 2018. "The bottom line is this: It's a big money indicator, and last year this big money indicator didn't confirm the rally until it broke out in December of 2017," Suttmeier told CNBC's "Futures Now" last week.

The S&P 500 is still on track for its best month since March 2016, the Nasdaq is on pace for its best month since July 2016, and the Dow is having its best month since last February. The 30-company index crossed 26,000 for first time on Tuesday.