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Investors see international stocks to outperform US in 2020

Wall Street Week Ahead
/New York
Filed on November 30, 2019 | Last updated on November 30, 2019 at 07.05 pm
Investors see international stocks to outperform US in 2020
Children throwing confetti at the closing bell during a traditional bring-your-kids-to-work day at the New York Stock Exchange.


Move to overseas equities comes as economic fundamentals appear to be improving in parts of Europe and Asia while US growth looks to be slowing

Even though the US stock market continues a record-breaking rally that has sent the benchmark S&P 500 index up nearly 25 per cent for the year, investors appear to be looking elsewhere for better values in the year ahead.

World stock funds brought in $8.2 billion in investor inflows over the last two weeks, breaking a losing streak that dated back to early September, according to Investment Company Institute data. US equity funds, meanwhile, lost more than $10 billion in outflows over the last two weeks, extending a retreat that has spanned seven of the last eight weeks.

The move into overseas stocks comes as economic fundamentals appear to be improving in parts of Europe and Asia while US growth looks to be slowing, drawing money away from a market that had been an outperfomer.

Even with the MSCI All World Country Index, which tracks global equities, nearing record highs set in January, 2018, fund managers and analysts say global stock markets still offer a better chance to outperform US stocks in the year ahead. The cite significantly lower valuations after failing to keep pace with the US equity market for much of the last decade.

"We're starting to see a period where valuation is going to be the driver for future returns," said David Marcus, chief investment officer at Evermore Global Advisors. The forward price-to-earning ratio for the broad Stoxx 600 index, for instance, is 15.4, well below the 19.3 forward P/E of the S&P 500, according to Refinitiv data.

Any narrowing of that large gap in valuations could be a driver, even for companies that have strong stock performance this year, said Thomas Banks, a portfolio manager for the Federated International Small-Mid Company fund who has been increasing his stake in European companies.

He remains bullish on companies such as London Stock Exchange Group PLC and Sweden-based casino game operator Evolution Gaming Group, both of which are already up 50 per cent for the year to date.

"Some of the higher valuations for US shares has been warranted because the US had a much faster growth rate. But going forward if there's a trade deal announced or an amicable solution to Brexit, the divergent growth rates could converge again" as US growth slows, said Banks.

Further declines in the US growth rate will also likely bring down the value of the dollar, which has hovered near record highs and eaten into the returns of investing in overseas markets, Banks said.

Danton Goei, portfolio manager of the Davis International fund, said more attractive valuations are pushing him into Asian stocks and multi-national companies that are positioned to benefit from domestic consumption in India and China.

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