Around the world in funds – Europe
Europe is no longer the clear buying opportunity it was just a couple of years ago, says Darius McDermott of Chelsea Financial Services, when European Central Bank president Mario Draghi made his vow to take whatever steps necessary to save the Euro.
“The easy money has been made,” he says, “but there are still selective opportunities.”
The key to the market’s continued success is an improvement in company earnings, and if these don’t come through there could be a correction in European markets.
McDermott says: “From a macroeconomic perspective there is a recovery, but it is extremely slow and there are still many challenges ahead. Draghi has put his money where his mouth is, though, and has shown that he will take the necessary steps to get Europe back on its feet. Many investors will take comfort in that.”
McDermott likes the Baring Europe Select fund and the Henderson European Focus fund in this region.
Gavin Haynes of Whitechurch Securities says: “In Europe we believe high dividend paying stocks will be increasingly sought after. We hold the FP Argonaut European Enhanced Income fund, which is currency-hedged – an advantage in recent months.”
Mona Shah of Rathbone Multi-Asset Portfolios tips Germany. She explains: “Sentiment around Europe is poor but Germany has stronger fundamentals than its neighbours. We have returned to the Baring German Growth trust. It has some exposure to Russia, but this has been reduced. There will, however, always be some connection to market movements in Asia. The most interesting theme in the fund is the auto sector.”
Meanwhile Ben Yearsley of Charles Stanley like the Jupiter European fund, a choice seconded by McDermott. He explains: “Manager Alexander Darwall has a highly disciplined approach and knows exactly what he wants in a company. He seeks to understand them inside out, trading infrequently and holding positions for many years once he has found what he is looking for.”
Tom Stevenson of Fidelity chalks up Europe’s recent outperformance to investor sentiment alone. He says: “It has almost nothing to do with improving corporate newsflow because company earnings have not begun to keep pace with the rise in stock markets. On the contrary, we have seen numerous earnings downgrades and a sharp fall in overall forecast earnings growth. Anyone sticking with Europe should do so in a defensive way.”
Stevenson also tips the Henderson European Special Situations fund, managed by Richard Pease. He says: “Pease seeks out companies with strong – often family-controlled – management. Most holdings operate in niche markets which are difficult to break into. The companies tend to have robust business fundamentals, generate high levels of cash and boast healthy balance sheets.”
The Jupiter European Special Situations fund is another favourite of Stevenson’s. Cedric de Fonclare, the fund’s manager, holds a degree in International Business Administration from the Sorbonne. Stevenson says: “He employs a rigorous process to search out large companies exposed to growth in global trade.”
Stevenson’s final pick is the Threadneedle European Select fund, managed by David Dudding. He says: “Dudding’s process involves looking for high-quality companies with unique brand franchises which are hard to imitate.”