Stocks are down. They are always expensive.

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US stocks are off to their worst start to a year in more than half a century. By some metrics, they still seem expensive.

Wall Street often uses the ratio of a company’s stock price to its earnings as a yardstick to determine whether a stock looks cheap or expensive. According to this metric, the market as a whole had been abnormally expensive for much of the past two years, a period when particularly accommodative monetary policy spurred the popular view that low interest rates offered investors little alternatives to stocks.

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