What stocks to buy as the Fed raises interest rates

The markets are trying to price in the first interest rate rise by the Federal Reserve in nine years, and as shown by recent volatility, it is not an easy task.

But some analysts say that investment decisions, at least in the equities field, are easy to make: head away from the US stock market and look for greener pastures somewhere else.

And it looks like emerging markets and Europe are offering investors good entry points right now.

In Europe, the dispute over whether to bail out Greece or cut it loose from the European Union has been weighing heavily on stocks and bonds.

In emerging markets, pockets of buying opportunities have appeared as investors rotate some money to US Treasuries and due to various geopolitical fears.

Analysts at Societe Generale have drawn up a chart of the most expensive and cheapest equities. US stocks are among the most expensive, along with South African stocks and equities in Denmark.

Equities Valuations Before Fed Rate Rise

US equities are among the most expensive in the world. Source: Societe Generale

Since it bottomed following the financial crisis in March 2009, the S&P 500 has gained 205%, but it is now “tired” and trading on high valuations, at three times book value, the analysts say.

“Markets have traded above this level over the last 40 years before, but only during a period of ‘irrational exuberance’ (1996-2002). We believe US equities harbour limited upside potential going forward,” the analysts said in a recent report.

US stocks will have to cope with a stronger dollar continuing to dampen earnings and with high profit margins, which make growth more difficult.

Although all markets will be affected by the spike in volatility expected in the second half of this year, the Societe Generale analysts are more sanguine about stocks in Asia and the eurozone and “recommend taking advantage of any spike in volatility to keep reweighting exposure to those markets in global equity portfolios.”

In the eurozone, they like French and Italian stocks markets and believe that Germany’s growth potential is muted.

On top of a weaker euro that would boost exports, France and Italy are set to benefit from the implementation of various reforms designed to make the labour force more flexible and to make it easier for companies to do business.

German firms have benefited the most from the weaker euro so far but Germany’s DAX index is highly valued and going forward companies’ earnings growth will be limited by higher wage growth.

Politics will most likely weigh on Spanish equities – with elections due in December – and on UK equities, with uncertainty about the EU referendum running high.

In Asia, the Societe Generale analysts see “a lot of value” in Chinese stocks, despite the jump of over 150% in the Shanghai Composite index.

Chinese mainland shares are still restricted, with limits on foreigners’ access. Recently the MSCI assessed the opportunity to add the A-shares, as they are also known, to its emerging markets index and decided to wait for more reforms before it adds them.

India, Indonesia and South Korea are likely to see progress too, as they will also benefit from reforms that are under way in Japan, which is the Societe Generale strategists’ top pick in Asia.

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