Without a doubt, GAAP earnings are down and buybacks are up, and many econometric measures look terrible, but that entire discussion might miss the mark.
In a nutshell, societies have become bifurcated into the have's and the have-not's, and it is increasingly only the haves who participate in equity/bond/RE markets, where what they do is trade assets among themselves, and thereby shape markets to their own sensibilities.
I have some money, but there was a time when I had none. By historical accident I now know some people with a lot of money, and I know how they think and behave. It's not about value, it's not about fundamentals, it's not about economics--it's about the psychology of self, and of group belonging.
We see all sorts of assets insanely priced--equities, RE, art, vehicles, etc.--relative to what the everyman can afford. They have no business even thinking about buying such things, and in fact many do not. Some try to play the game through 0% financing on vehicles and low residential mortgage rates, but in the end they either lose money on the deals, or at a minimum, pay much more for things than do those with actual money to pay with.
Those in the other half don't care much about price levels...in fact, in many cases, the higher the price the better, because it means a measure of exclusivity, and exclusivity is important because it restricts access to only the like-minded...and what does a large block of like-minded people mean?
Confidence and consistency.
And that's what it's all about.
I admit that I still don't think like "those" people. I still look for better deals on RE, rather than just buying waterfront at any cost. I still try to buy equities low and sell high, rather than buying high and selling higher. I still try to look for things for which there will be a broad market and therefore greater liquidity, rather than going for more prestige and less liquidity.
Certain areas have been well-known to have been exclusive for a long time--so-called "luxury" levels in RE, jewelry, art, vehicles, clubs, boats, etc.--but like I wrote on here maybe 2 years ago about high-priced stocks like AAPL, equities are rapidly becoming a type of one of these classes. Most people in the US aren't even in the markets.
The "luxury class" seems to me to have gotten significantly larger and more internationally homogenous over the years, to the point where today it seems to be large enough to be self-sustaining. There are LOTS of people with LOTS of money, and they form a sort of international class, with international interests and international mobility. These are the people who, along with some pensions funds, own equities.
Is the class large enough to mold the equity markets in its own image, and thereby keep them at what seem to be ridiculously high levels, similar to other "luxury" goods and investments? I honestly don't know. I don't know if those who buy as "holdings" now outweigh those who buy as "investments"--and IMO those are the 2 characterizations that separate the classes.
The former doesn't "need" to make money on an ongoing basis, and can wait until the right time to move, as they wish. They don't mind if something is a liability for a while, and they don't need to "work" things. The latter does need to make money on an ongoing basis, and must move in response to external forces, and cannot wait indefinitely to make their moves. They look for things on which they will make money now, or which will turn positive cash flow in short order. They therefore find fundamentals appealing.
I have learned not to disparage the former class, because in certain spheres it is big enough, and has been around long enough, to be self-sustaining. I'm not talking about the idiot entertainers who buy a $100M place and then sell it for $60M--for every one of those, there is a more successful one, who just maintains the trade in luxury properties.
Are equities now one of those spheres where the involvement and control of and by this class is large enough and persistent enough to be self-sustaining? I don't know the answer, but I suspect that it is "yes". If that is true, it is a an absolute endorsement for "buy and hold".
The quality of "fundamentals" is ALWAYS determined by relation to some referent, and the issue now is whether the referent should change to more accurately reflect the attitudes, values, goals, and behaviors of the luxury class. IF the referent is so changed--and I will say it unequivocally--equities are not only NOT overpriced, they might actually be a good deal.
In other words, if you look at who is actually a market participant and how their influence on the market is exercised and by whom, the market fundamentals can actually look pretty good.
Igy comes from a certain perspective, and within that perspective his judgments are appropriate. I don't think it's that valuable to criticize his judgments within his perspective, because that exercise misses the larger point--which is whether his perspective on the markets is the best perspective to use when looking at the markets.
Got to go for AM workout now...snow here, too, and cold. Staying indoors!