Stocktake: More stocks hitting ‘ludicrous’ levels

Stock prices don’t tell you anything about a company’s market capitalisation or valuation

Sentiment surveys aren’t the only indicator of excess right now.

Take Bespoke Investment’s so-called Ludicrous indicator, which consists of companies trading on at least 10 times sales and which have doubled over the last three months. For most of the last decade, only a handful of US companies would have made Bespoke’s “ludicrous” list; right now, there are 59. That remains less than half the number registered during February 2000’s dotcom mania, but it’s way beyond anything seen over the last two decades. Since March’s market bottom, notes Bespoke, this basket of 59 stocks has risen 760 per cent.

Wall Street Journal columnist James Mackintosh points out another indicator of market madness: the preference for low-priced stocks in 2021. The best performers have been stocks priced below $1, then stocks between $1 and $2, and so on "almost perfectly", notes Mackintosh, with the worst performers being those above $100. It seems some investors think low-priced stocks are cheap and high-priced stocks are expensive, even though stock prices don't tell you anything about a company's market capitalisation or valuation.

None of this means the current market is crazy, but are there pockets of craziness in the market? Undoubtedly.