Sick of the steady drumbeat of woeful news from Europe these past couple of years? Probably, but those doleful reports might actually herald a fabulous investment opportunity, according to a panel of chief investment officers on Tuesday at the 3rd annual Innovative Alternative Strategies conference in Denver. The three-day event was hosted by Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines and was attended by more than 600 financial professionals.
"Europe is the most interesting investment opportunity on the planet," said Robert Brown, chief financial strategist at Eqis Capital Management. "Everything is painted with the same brush so you have great companies tarred simply because they have their headquarters there."
Brown noted that the depth and duration of economic stress in the euro zone has led to the dumping of assets at prices "opportunistic to the extreme."
Agreed, said Mark Green, CIO at Oxford Financial Group. "A year ago there were fears of Europe's dissolution," he said. "There's still the potential for a euro zone crisis, but not for the European Union as a whole."
As such, Green sees a great opportunity in European equities. "The fire sale of assets will be there for some time, so there's no rush to jump into them," he said. But, he added, the divergence between actual worth and current valuations in European securities won't last forever, so investors should keep a watchful eye on potential investments coming out of that long-running soap opera.
All three panelists, which included Commonwealth Financial Network's CIO, Brad McMillan, believe economic uncertainty will reign in the U.S. during the fourth quarter due to a variety of factors: the November election, prospects of the fiscal cliff scenario if the Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire at the end of the year, and external events such as the mess in Europe and how well China manages its transition to slower growth.
McMillan said that while he didn't expect another recession, he did see all of the potential risks being to the downside.
Brown saw things differently. "The real risk is to the upside," he said. This scenario is predicated on how well the above-mentioned risks are handled. But if done successfully, he posited, the Dow could go from 13,000 to 14,000 and be on its way to 15,000.
The implication of ignoring upside risk, he said, could be damaging to client portfolios. "If you position your portfolio against that, there will be a certain amount of angst felt by your clients."
The panelists examined the state of sideways financial markets in the U.S., and what role alternative investments can play in that environment. "If the growth drivers of equities are mixed," McMillan said, 'then that makes alternatives and strategic diversification necessary."