Is this the worst time to buy stocks?

Some cautious financial minds are predicting that right now might be a good time to sit out the stock market, despite the economic recovery. Are they right?

Brendan McDermid/Reuters/File
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in this file photo.Is it time to opt out of the market?

Randall Forsyth latches on to some commentary from John Hussman (Hussman Funds) discussing his thesis that this moment could in fact be "The Worst of Times to Buy Stocks" in Barron's this weekend.

• the Standard & Poor's 500 trading at more than 8% above its 52-week exponential moving average

• the S&P 500 up more than 50% from its four-year low

• the "Shiller P/E," based on the cyclically adjusted trailing 10-year earnings, developed by Yale economist Robert Shiller, greater than 18; it's currently 22

• the 10-year Treasury yield higher than six months earlier

• the Investors Intelligence's bullish advisory sentiment over 47%, and bearishness under 25%; in the latest data, the numbers were 47.9% bulls and 26.6% bears

WHEN ALL THOSE CONDITIONS OBTAIN, as they very nearly do now, look out below. In 1973, a 48% collapse ensued over 21 months, and in August 1987, there was a 34% plunge over the following three months. Since that ancient history, losses of 10% to 18% ensued in the 1998-2000 period, followed ultimately by a plunge of more than 50% in the dot-com bust of 2000-02. And in 2007, a correction of 10% culminated in the 50%-plus plunge of 2007-09 (see chart).

Forsyth pairs Hussman's words of caution with the even more cautious take from Walter Zimmerman, who's looking for a serious reversal and breakdown to come this week.

I don't know Zimmerman's track record of these types of prognostications but I know that Hussman is typically over-cautious (he hedged against the dotcom blowup 12 years ago but then also sat out the bull market of the last three years).

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