Europe Is Still In The Throes Of Covid-19, But Its Stocks Are Rallying
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Europe Is Still In The Throes Of Covid-19, But Its Stocks Are Rallying

Certain shares surge as investors look for beaten-down stocks.

By Anna Hirtenstein
Mon, Mar 15, 2021 2:08pmGrey Clock 3 min

European stocks have been on the rise as international investors reposition their portfolios for the global economy to return to normal—a trade that hinges on smooth reopenings in the region.

The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 index has gained 4.5% so far this month, pulling ahead of major U.S. gauges, and on Friday hovered close to its highest point in more than a year. The S&P 500 has added 3.5% in the same period and the Russell 2000, an index of small-cap U.S. companies, has increased 6.9%. The Nasdaq Composite has gained 1% so far this month.

Analysts say this is due to a rotation from growth to value stocks: Investors have been snapping up shares of companies hit hard by the pandemic and selling those that benefited from stay-at-home orders. Europe is emerging as a beneficiary of this trade, which banks on a strong economic rebound.

“Europe is predominantly a value market, the U.S. is predominantly a growth market,” said Kasper Elmgreen, head of equity investing at Amundi. “This rotation benefits Europe disproportionately.”

Value stocks are thought to be trading below what they are currently worth. They are typically in established industries and pay dividends, and include banks, energy and industrial companies, which are also more sensitive to the economic cycle. Growth companies are younger and perceived to be innovative, with potential to do well in the future, such as technology.

But delays to the European Union’s procurement of vaccines is likely to result in its member states keeping social-distancing and travel restrictions in place for longer than countries that are inoculating their populations faster, such as the U.S. and Israel. This might mean that Europe’s economic rebound is slower and weaker. Italy reimposed stricter curbs in several regions last week and plans to lock down nationally over Easter.

“We are finding a little bit more opportunity outside of the U.S. [Value stocks] look cheaper and more undervalued overseas,” said Brent Fredberg, director of investments at Brandes Investment Partners in San Diego. “Now you’ve still got a long way to go in many of these companies, even though they’ve rallied hard.”

A key reason for Europe’s recent strong stock-market performance is the composition of indexes. The Stoxx Europe 600 is more heavily weighted toward industries that are considered to be value, such as financials at 17%, industrials at 16% and energy companies at 5%. Its weighting for technology and communications is 10%, compared with 37% for the S&P 500.

Amundi’s Mr Elmgreen has bought shares of European auto makers and companies that produce construction materials recently, and said he is “significantly underweight” U.S. tech, meaning he owns less than the benchmark he tracks.

Another driver of Europe’s performance is the bond market. The sense of optimism about economic growth has also driven fund managers to dump safe-haven assets such as sovereign debt, causing yields to rise and prices to drop. Government bond yields are used as a reference for the cost of debt in the broader market, including loans to companies. That rise in yields implies higher financing costs, benefiting lenders.

European banks have been among the best performers so far this year. Investors have been expecting the recent rise in yields to improve their net interest income, a key source of revenue. French bank Natixis SA has surged 47%, while Amsterdam-based ING Groep NV and Spain’s Banco de Sabadell SA have both risen 32%.

The Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF is up 5.6% for the year and the iShares Europe ETF has also risen 5.5%. Another iShares ETF that invests in European financial firms has climbed 12%.

Companies in sectors still curbed by government restrictions have also jumped. German travel company TUI AG is the biggest winner on the Stoxx Europe 600 this year, soaring 56%. International Consolidated Airlines SA has added 39% and InterContinental Hotels Group PLC has risen 15%.

But whether these gains are justifiable is still a question, according to Simon Webber, a portfolio manager at Schroders with a focus on global equities. “Travel has fundamentally changed, people are used to working productively, meeting and supporting customers remotely,” he said. Aviation stocks in particular “will be heavily scrutinized,” he added.

He has increased his holdings of European banks, but is also looking at buying more growth stocks such as electric-vehicle companies.



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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

By KEN SHREVE
Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .