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Can US stock markets keep on climbing?

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US market valuations are not near bubble territory despite being at record highs, with the current rally different to the pre-crisis period because of resurgent US growth, veteran US equity manager Ed Cowart has said.
Can US stock markets keep on climbing?

Cowart (pictured), who is managing director of US house Eagle Asset Management and runs Nordea’s North American All Cap fund, said the current market rally does not feel ‘peaky’, unlike 2000 and 2007, because economic growth in the US is so strong.

He said individual investors and advisers in the US “still seem to be skeptical of the rally”, but said it was sustainable until earnings start to fall.

“For a market at all-time highs now, we hear very little about a potential market downturn,” he said.

“You could of course get an 8%-10% correction, but there will not be a significant downturn until earnings decline, and that will not happen until the economy starts to decline.”

However, while Cowart sees general value across equity markets, the manager said high dividend sectors are overvalued. As such he is avoiding utilities, staples, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and tobacco stocks, as price growth in these sectors has been driven by multiple expansion, rather than earnings growth.

Instead, he is seeing opportunities in such areas as financials and established technology giants, such as Microsoft and Apple, with the latter becoming the largest position in the fund over the last few months (just over 4% in May).

He plans to add to financials further on weakness, as these stocks have not delivered strong performance so far this year.

“We have a barbell approach to financials,” he said. “On the one hand we invest in JP Morgan and Citigroup – two of the largest banks in the world, but on the other hand we have smaller financials based in Washington DC, the Silicone Valley and in Texas that are rapidly growing their loan portfolios.”

Over the year to 9 July the fund has made 22%, according to FE, while the average fund in the IMA North America sector is up just 5% over the period.

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