The Case for Buying Asia Stocks Over U.S. Ones

An expected surge in election-related volatility in the U.S. stock market is paving the way for Asian shares to make a run at besting their American peers.

Since hitting an all-time low relative to the S&P 500 on Sept. 2, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index has outperformed the U.S. benchmark by almost five percentage points. That nascent trend is expected to persist at least through the November poll and potentially beyond, according to strategists.

“There is a better than average chance that Asian stocks will outperform U.S. stocks over the course of the next month,” said Eoin Murray, head of investment for international business at Federated Hermes. “The volatility rise will be more pronounced in U.S. risk assets, and will pervade more globally but with less strength.”

Fears about a contested election result and President Donald Trump’s decision not to push for further stimulus ahead of the vote have helped contribute to the recent weakness in U.S. equities. Meanwhile, a growing belief in a Joe Biden victory and Democrats winning control of both houses of Congress is seenbenefiting Asian stocks by reviving the U.S. economy and trade flows.

Democratic Landslide

“The probability of Asian equities’ outperformance will be higher under a Democratic landslide win,” said Nader Naeimi, head of dynamic markets with AMP Capital. “I firmly believe that trend will continue, Asia is under-owned and the U.S. is over-owned.”

Asia will also benefit from China’s strong economic recovery, a weakening dollar that has likely seen an end to its decade-long bull market, as well as a rotation into cyclicals and value, Naeimi added.

Thomas Poullaouec, head of multi-asset solutions for Asia Pacific at T. Rowe Price, also believes the region’s stocks are better placed than their U.S. peers to benefit from the recovery stage of the global economic cycle.

“Asian markets have been outperforming recently and we could expect this trend to continue in the short term as the market rewards more cyclical exposures tied to the economic recovery,” he said. Strong earnings revisions and more attractive valuations also favor Asia over the U.S., he said.

The MSCI Asia Pacific is trading at 16.5 times its 12-month forward earnings, compared to the S&P 500’s multiple of almost 22 times.

Still, Asian equities won’t be immune to the results of the election, especially their implication for the future of the U.S.-China trade war, according to Daniel Gerard, senior multi asset strategist with State Street Global Markets.

“Elections are only a part of this story as a resurgence in U.S.-China tensions is likely as soon as we move past Nov. 3 — U.S. election day,” he said, adding that this suggests a “rocky” fourth quarter.

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