The above chart (click to expand) tracks the rolling 10 year total return of the S & P 500 Index. The graph starts on 12/31/45, so the first data point represents the total return you would have earned if you bought the index (and reinvested the dividends) 10 years earlier.
The most recent data point is a guess for 12/31/08. I used S & P's dividend estimate for 2008 ($28.05) and a year end value for the index of 1,040.18:
-- I chose this level because it would generate a 0.0% total return for the latest 10 year period.
-- This level is 161.41 points higher than it is right now, so I am building in an 18% rally into year end. Obviously, if this not not occur the latest 10 year total return would be negative.
-- A 10 year total return of 0.0% or lower has never happened. This is part of the reason why investors are nervous. It is a difficult decision to increase a bet that has not paid off after 10 years.
-- Okay, now what? Do the levels present the buy of a lifetime? The next post will start to address this, beginning with an examination of the Federal Government's finances.
Please Note: The total returns referenced above are in nominal terms, no adjustment for inflation.