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JP Morgan put out an interesting recommendation to investors recently. They said the best place to make money in the recovery might not be in the US, but rather in international stocks. According to Gabriela Santos, global market strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, “When you have a cyclical recovery like we expect in 2021, it’s really international’s time to shine … We think it’s really important for investors to have a balance between U.S. equity exposure and international exposure as we go into the year of the vaccine for 2021”. The key argument here is that international indexes are more dominated by cyclical stocks than tech, and those are the share poised to really gain as the vaccine plays out.
FINSUM: This is all pretty basic. International indexes have not recovered as much as US stocks, and are composed of companies that are likely to start outperforming at this stage of the recovery. Europe in particular seems to be a good bet.
US market valuations are eye-watering. By several measures the S&P 500 is as richly valued as it has ever been. With that in mind, overseas stocks, especially in Europe, appear to be a good bet. For example, while US stocks are now well ahead of their pre-COVID peaks, the Stoxx Europe 600 is still down 9.2% since its high in February. Since March, the S&P 500 has rebounded by 60% while the Stoxx Europe 600 has only seen a 40% rise.
FINSUM: So European benchmarks are more exposed to the banks and industrials, which were more hurt by COVID than US tech companies, which dominate American benchmarks. That said, now that a vaccine is in site, there is a big chance for appreciation in Europe that seems much less likely to occur in the US.
Starting with the huge gains of tech shares over the summer, and now the whole index, investors have grown increasingly uneasy with market valuations. By some metrics, markets are as stretched valuation-wise as they have ever been. Take for instance Robert Shiller’s famed CAPE ratio. As it stands now the S&P 500 has a CAPE valuation of 33.4x. That is the highest it has been since 1929 and almost double the long-term average of 17x. ”There are great expectations built into this market … We are in the seventh inning of Federal Reserve-supported equity markets”, says the CIO of CIBC Private Wealth Management.
FINSUM: As scary as the valuations are, they are not entirely irrational given the level of stimulus and the way the economy has held up.
With markets at all-time highs, but COVID restrictions tightening and the potential for a blue Senate looming, many advisors are feeling that now might be a good time to retreat into value stocks. Lower priced stocks have done very well over the last couple of months, showing good momentum on top of their theoretical valuation insulation. With that in mind, here are three very highly ranked large cap value mutual funds. The first is American Funds’ Washington Mutual Investors Fund Class A (AWSHX), sporting an expense ratio of 0.59% and an average three-year return of 9.7%. The second is the MFS Equity Income Fund Class A (EQNAX), which holds a more diversified group of securities, including some international stocks and convertibles. Finally, check out the Fidelity Equity-Income Fund (FEQIX), which tends to focus on income-producing securities.
FINSUM: A nice hybrid between appreciation and income is a good approach for right now, so the latter two seem look good buys. More broadly, value stocks appear a smart choice given the particular moment in markets.
One of the questions swirling in the back (or front!) of investors’ minds is whether big tech megacaps are overvalued. They have had a stellar run this year and are trading at rich multiples, which has led to fears of overvaluation. On the other hand, they still seem like they might be the best growth play in the market. At the end of September one could argue things had gotten out of hand. FAAMG stocks were trading at 35x earnings while the rest of the S&P 500 was at 12x, the widest gap since 2000. However, since then fortunes have reversed, with the spread now only 31x to 20x.
FINSUM: So the big question is whether the shrinking of the spread means there is margin for FAAMG growth, or it is a part of a larger trend towards valuation parity? We think it depends on the regulatory path that new administration takes.