Bull market or bubble? History suggests brace for the 'pop'

Investors, analysts and strategists forever debate whether the equity markets are properly valued. That's the whole point of investing, after all, to figure out whether an asset is cheap, and thus poised to go higher, or too expensive, and so set for a fall. There's a bull and a bear case for pretty much any security, but this magical mystery rally has put the debate in especially sharp relief these days. As DailyFinance has noted, stocks look topped out on a technical basis and overpriced to dot-com bubble heights, but also perhaps reasonably valued or even, yes, cheap if you look at price relative to sales.

Mark Twain famously said that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. (If it didn't, technical analysis wouldn't work at all.) It also makes comparing today's bull market to that of 1982 an ear-splitting and scary exercise. As the second nastiest recession since World War II -- and the last time we had 10.2% unemployment -- one might think comparing 1982 to 2009 would offer insights into share prices. Barry Ritholtz certainly thinks so. The CEO and director of research at FusionIQ put together such a comparison Thursday, setting the 1982 rally against today's, and it ain't pretty.