Emerging markets have been beaten up, but some investors think they offer advisors some attractive opportunities for their clients.
Michael Bennett, certified public accountant, managing director, Lazard Asset Management, said emerging markets are trading at 11 times forward earnings, which he said “is a very interesting opportunity” right now.
Conversely, he said valuations in some European companies and countries are getting close to fair value following the hit many southern-tier European countries took just a few years ago.
“What’s driven Europe this year? The second-best performer was Greece. ... In the fifth, sixth and seventh spot were Italy, Ireland and Portugal. Really, we’ve seen a huge turnaround in market perception toward Europe,” Bennett said.
He spoke Wednesday at the 2014 Envestnet Advisor Summit in Chicago on the next investment opportunities internationally.
Bennett said the philosophy toward investing at Lazard is to look closely at stock performance to remove the uncontrollable factors such as macroeconomic or political risk. And, after 2013’s banner performance for equities everywhere, “stock selection will be critical to determine winners and losers,” he said.
For example, he said, BMW is doing very well in China, despite the concerns about economic slowdown in the Asian nation. He noted that the carmaker saw a 25 percent rise in sales in China. By choosing a company like BMW, investors are focused on a company selling a product in China, rather than trying to guess where the Chinese economy is going.
Bennett said given the gains in Europe, Lazard will likely be reducing holdings because many of their stocks have reached fair value. That said, he mentioned the firm holds Assa Abloy, Lloyds and BAT in its European portfolio.
They are also underweight Japan as high taxes and labor challenges remain an issue. He said they are watching to see evidence that the structural changes proposed under Abenomics as Bennett remains skeptical of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reforms. They do have some Japanese stocks in their holdings, including Japan Tobacco, KDDI and Daikin.
Kenneth Lowe, portfolio manager, Matthews International Capital Management, said Asian economies still have a long “runway for growth” for financial advisors seeking long-term investments.