U.S. equities have some upside, but investors seeking to maximize returns during the coming period of synchronous global growth should focus on opportunities elsewhere. The total market capitalization of U.S. stocks now exceeds 100 percent of GDP - a level typically associated with full valuation - so it appears that European and Asian equities are better positioned for gains over the next year.
The outlook is extremely favorable for Europe, where systemic risk has largely dissipated. European Central Bank President, Mario Draghi, has made clear that the ECB will do what is needed for an orderly financial sector restructuring. Peripheral economies now have access to capital markets thanks to lower interest rates and are enjoying an improving fiscal outlook. Lower unit labor costs are also helping periphery nations export their way to a stronger recovery. Improving economic fundamentals will soon flow through to earnings in periphery nations, and equities in larger economies, such as Spain and Italy, hard hit during the crisis, could see the most substantial gains.
A simultaneous economic expansion in the United States and Europe should support growth in China. The total market capitalization of Chinese stocks as a percentage of GDP is close to its previous low in late 2008 and more than 60 percent below its 2007 peak, giving Chinese equities highly attractive valuations. Ultra accommodative monetary policy in Japan will continue to bolster output there in the short-run.
Attractive Equity Valuations in Peripheral and Eastern Europe
With continued monetary easing around the world and signs of a synchronous global expansion taking root, countries that were particularly hard hit over the past few years now present potentially attractive opportunities. Measured by market capitalization as a percent of GDP, Eastern Europe and smaller euro zone peripheral countries now appear to be the most undervalued of major regions worldwide. Major peripheral countries in the euro zone (Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) are also below their average level of market cap to GDP over the past 10 years, indicating further room for equity returns, compared to other developed markets. Emerging markets that suffered selloffs over the past few months also remain undervalued, including India, China, and South America.
MARKET CAPITALIZATION TO GDP: % DEVIATION FROM 10-YEAR AVERAGE
Source: Bloomberg, Haver, Guggenheim Investments. Data as of 3Q2013 for market cap, Q2 2013 for GDP. Other EM includes Turkey, Mexico, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Southeast Asia includes Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia. Other DM includes Australia, Canada, UK, and Switzerland. Euro zone core includes Germany, France, Netherlands, and Finland. South America includes Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, and Chile. Eastern Europe includes Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Russia. Other Periphery includes Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia, Malta, and Cyprus.
This material is distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investing advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. This article contains opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Guggenheim Partners or its subsidiaries. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. Forward looking statements, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary and non-proprietary research and other sources. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not assured as to accuracy. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission of Guggenheim Partners, LLC. ©2013, Guggenheim Partners. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There is neither representation nor warranty as to the current accuracy of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There is neither representation nor warranty as to the current accuracy of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.