Equities cheap for a reason

There is a growing clamour of voices insisting equities are oversold and valuations cheap. But given the continued political paralysis on both sides of the Atlantic, there’s a strong argument to steer clear of stocks.

Equities cheap for a reason


Currently markets are pricing in about a 50% chance that the western world falls back into recession, Tiggelen said, and in such a climate regarding equities as a "screaming buy" is a mistake.

While analysts are starting to reduce their forecasts for corporate earnings, they still expect them to rise by more than 10% in 2012.
Tiggelen thinks this optimism is unfounded, as healthy economic growth depends on a quick end to political bickering in both the US and Europe.

He said: "Currently it appears very unlikely that investors will get the clarity about future fiscal policy they so desire, certainly in the eurozone. This ‘muddling-through-policy’ gradually paralyses the banking system, which in turn puts a brake on economic growth as a whole."

Increasingly it is looking likely that Western economies will see negligable or even negative growth in the next couple of years and Tiggelen thinks corporate earnings will mirror sluggish growth rates.

He points out that current equity valations are still 20% lower than their trough during the previous bear market, so they still have further to fall.

But Neil Veitch, manager of SVM UK Opportunities, disagrees: "Despite volatility and growth concerns, equities remain the most attractive asset class and are good value in the wake of the recent sell off. We think economies will continue to grow and avoid recession, but growth will be slow and protracted, which is to be expected in the aftermath of a housing and financial bust."

BlackRock’s head of European equity style diversified team, Nigel Bolton also thinks there are opportunities within equities, particularly over the long term.

He said: "The earnings-driven equity bull marketof the last two years has ended and we are entering a challenging period for overall market earnings. Companies will implement cost cutting measures in order to maintain margins as a reaction to slowing demand for goods and services.

"European equities currently look attractively valued relative to other asset classes and to history. On that basis there is significant upside potential in Europe but this is likely to only be unlocked when the political situation in the region improves."

Despite this he said there are quality growth and defensive companies trading on very cheap valuations at the moment and if investors are prepared to ride out short term volatility there could be handsome returns from equities.



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