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Sep 18, 2018

'America first' won't last much longer in stocks: JPMorgan

A trader wearing a Trump hat works at the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan, New York City.

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For the last few months in stocks, the world’s loss has often seemed like America’s gain. The S&P 500 is up almost 9 per cent while everything else is down more than 6 per cent, taken as a whole. It won’t last.

This is the latest warning from JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists led by Marko Kolanovic, who say to cut holdings in U.S. equities and add money in emerging markets. As the benefits from President Donald Trump’s tax cuts dissipate, the world’s largest economy is set to lose its edge in growth, they said.

“The large U.S. fiscal boost this year, as well as the delayed positive impact of weak USD and low rates from last year created a ‘sugar high’ for U.S. assets this year,” the strategists wrote in a note to clients. “We expect convergence of macro fundamentals between U.S. and international markets in the coming quarters; with equity markets tending to price forward fundamentals by six to 12 months, the time for the rotation may be now.”

The call goes against a herd of money managers who are embracing U.S. stocks with increasing ardor. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest investor survey, allocation to America rose to the highest since January 2015 while exposure to emerging-market equities fell to the lowest in more than two years.

It’s a preference that’s been working. The S&P 500 is hovering near a record high and in the midst of its sixth straight monthly advance. Developing countries are mired in a bear market and equity gauges in Europe and Asia are down for 2018.

While Trump’s policies partly explain the divergence, with a new around of tariffs just imposed on China this week, Kolanovic said that assuming the U.S. is immune to a trade war is a risky bet. Additionally, should trade tensions ease, the stocks that have been battered amid fear of a global trade war should start rebounding.

Last week, JPMorgan estimated that the combined per-share earnings for S&P 500 companies could drop by as much as US$10 if bilateral tariffs of 25 per cent are imposed. This year’s earnings forecast for the benchmark is US$165 per share.

“We gradually trim exposure to U.S. stocks and dollar assets, as they acted as a trade war ‘safe haven’ so far, but investors may ultimately rotate into more attractive foreign assets if trade concerns ease,” Kolanovic wrote. “The trade war and asset outflows already impacted foreign assets, creating an FX advantage and attractive valuations.

 

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