This week, investors poured $5 billion into European equity funds, marking the biggest weekly inflow ever into the asset class.
These funds have seen nothing but inflows for the past 17 weeks — since the beginning of the second quarter, when PMI surveys suggested the eurozone was finally emerging from recession.
In recent weeks, some shops have been building the case for European equities vis-a-vis their U.S. counterparts.
Société Générale’s asset allocation team, for example, released a report arguing that the S&P 500 would drop 15% when the Federal Reserve winds down its quantitative easing program in 2014, then go nowhere for years.
“Strategically, we advise investors to switch into eurozone and Japanese equities, where economic policy is much clearer, monetary policy very loose and positioning is low,” said SocGen’s global head of asset allocation, Alain Bokobza, in the report.
SocGen equity strategist Paul Jackson followed up the report with 12 charts making the case for European stocks.
Meanwhile, European earnings estimates continue to face downgrades.
“Yet another month of (broad-based) earnings cuts ahead of the Q3 reporting season,” writes Deutsche Bank strategist Lars Slomka in a note to clients. “Monthly earnings revisions remain 1) negative and 2) broad-based in Europe as indicated by our company revision ratio (up-downgrades relative to total up-/and downgrades), which deteriorated further to -0.27 in October (vs. -0.24 in September).”
Morgan Stanley strategist Graham Secker says investors “may be assuming too much too soon.”
“Of particular interest to us is the renewed drop in European earnings revisions that have fallen for the last three weeks and are now down to -7%,” writes Secker in a note. “Although we’re only just starting Europe’s 3Q reporting season, the early signs have been supportive to our view that we’re still a quarter or so away from an upgrade cycle and that expectations for the more cyclical areas of the market may be assuming too much too soon.”
BofA Merrill Lynch strategist John Bilton shows less concern.
“We wouldn’t extrapolate early weakness into the full [earnings reporting] season, as some firms who warned chose to report early,” says Bilton. “Staples & hard cyclicals likely continue to struggle, but we’re optimistic on domestic EU sectors and financials. 3Q and 4Q are the “show me” quarters for EU earnings. But portfolio managers care most about the 2014 outlook; EPS beats of 45-50% in 3Q is likely enough to keep PMs overweight Europe.”
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