The market may not crash this year.
Let’s lead with that in light of the fiscally salacious nature of this headline. Stocks appear vulnerable to a sharp correction in today’s climate of rising rates and political unrest overseas, but that certainly doesn’t mean that it will happen. It’s never that easy.
Behind every timely market call of a market top, there are countless others that think they got it right despite curling into the fetal position at markedly lower price points.
This isn’t a market call. I’m bullish on stocks, at least for the long haul.
However, it seems that everyone’s a genius in retrospect. Investors have no problem picking out the telltale signs of a crash or bubble after everyone is walking through the ruins. Whether it was the obsession with site traffic over profitability ahead of the dot-com bubble of 2001 or the loosening of lending standards before the real estate market collapse a few years ago, everybody believes they saw it coming.
Let’s go out on a limb, then. Let’s be fashionably early for a change. Let’s pick out what in retrospect will be the telltale signs of a frothy market before the crash — that may or may not happen — takes place.
Here are three recent signs that the market had it coming.
1. Tesla is a $20 billion company
One of the market’s biggest winners this year has been Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA). If you had invested a Chevy Volt in Tesla’s stock at the beginning of the year, you would have enough money to buy a pair of Model S sedans.
Yes, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) is the coolest company on the planet. Elon Musk is a deity in some circles. However, this is still a company selling roughly as many plug-in cars a month as the Volt or Leaf.
It’s true that Tesla can’t keep up with demand, but even its own website has the waiting list for a new Model S at between one and three months for an order placed today. That’s not so impressive for an assembly line cranking out just hundreds of cars a week.
Now, it’s true that Musk is a genius. It’s also true that more attractively priced Tesla cars will be on the way in a few years. However, does any of this justify the stock’s $20 billion market cap? Everything can go right for Tesla in the coming years, and it may still wind up being no better than a $10 billion company.
2. Microsoft moving higher on the capitulation of Steve Ballmer
Ballmer is certainly worthy of criticism, but there is nothing that he did that is reversible. There is no CEO that can go back in time to beat Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to the iPhone in 2007. Actually, if Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) wanted to be a leader in the smartphone market, it would have actually had to have beaten Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to the iPod in 2001. The reason that Apple’s iPhone became so popular is because everyone trusted it as a premium brand in portable consumer electronics on the heels of the iPod’s success. There’s no way that the company behind the Zune portable media player would be the game changer in mobile come 2007.
However, even Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s dominance was short-lived. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s Android has quickly overtaken Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for global market share in smartphones and, more recently, tablets. Ballmer could have beaten Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) to the punch by making its mobile operating system open source, but the market would’ve hated trading the high margins of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s premium software for the pursuit of mindshare on a pro bono basis.