Despite Monday’s (May 10) huge bounce on news that European Union governments had agreed on a $1 trillion rescue package, I don’t think you need to chase European stocks. The stock and bond markets might have been convinced for a day that the Greek, Spanish, etc. debt crisis is over, but other parts of the financial system aren’t quite ready to declare that all’s well.
The euro, for example, started May 10 strongly but by the time the trading had followed the time zones to Asia the currency was in retreat again and gave up most of its gain from May 10. Similarly after improving on Monday the markets for credit default swaps, which let investors protect against the risk of default, and short-term money market interest rates essentially tread water in Asia.
All in all, on day two the financial markets seemed to be saying that they were glad to have the rescue package since it removed worries that Greece or someone would default tomorrow but the plan didn’t really fix the problem in the medium and long run.
So relax, the bargains that have emerged as investors marked down good and bad risk alike during the crisis are still around, May 10 didn’t put an end to them, and in fact they’re likely to get even more tempting in the weeks ahead. That’s because the euro is likely to continue to weaken. Even if the deal removed the risk of immediate default, it left huge questions about the long-term future of the currency unanswered. The European Central Bank has said that it will sterilize the money created by the rescue package but we’re talking $1 trillion here. It’s hard to imagine that some of that won’t get added to the money supply, pushing up inflation, and weakening the euro.
So what should you be looking for in a euro bargain? (Don’t forget U.S. bargains either. I’ve made three buys of U.S. since May 5: Cummins (CMI) http://jubakpicks.com/2010/05/05/buy-cummins-cmi/ , Whirlpool (WHR) http://jubakpicks.com/2010/05/07/buy-whirlpool-whr/ , and American Tower (AMT) http://jubakpicks.com/2010/05/10/buy-american-tower-amt/
First, you want a solid, financial sound company whose shares are being unfairly treated by the markets. This isn’t the time to load up on risky stocks that have been pummeled because investors have legitimate worries about the balance sheets.
Second, you want an exporter that can gain from the decline in the euro either because it makes raw materials cheaper (Yes, for most European companies a cheaper euro makes raw materials more expensive but I’ve got an exception in mind.), or because it gives overseas sales a boost by making the company’s product cheaper for customers who pay in stronger currencies.
Third, you want companies that aren’t tied to national economies that are going to see growth slow dramatically as governments try to reduce spending.
Siemens (SI). Think of General Electric (GE) without the financial division that has turned into an albatross for the U. S. infrastructure company. Strengths of the German company are in factory automation, off-shore wind turbines, high-speed rail, healthcare diagnostics, and power generation and transmission. The stock recently traded at a forward price to earnings ratio of less than 14 and a price to sales ratio of less than one.
Vestas Wind Systems (VWDRY). In the last two months I’ve seen announcements of big orders for Vestas wind turbines from the United States, Turkey, Australia, and China. Who’s to say that the world’s largest wind power company (by market share) wouldn’t have won those orders anyway, but it sure doesn’t hurt to be a euro-based company when you’re bidding in strong currency economies.
Central European Distribution (CEDC). Nothing with “European” in its name has escaped punishment in the euro debt crisis, but the truth is that Central European Distribution, the world’s largest vodka producer, has very little exposure to the euro. Its biggest markets in Europe are Poland, Russia, the Ukraine, and Hungary. The United States is the company’s key market outside Eastern Europe. The shares were down 32% in the last month as of May 7 before rallying almost 15% on May 10. Wait for the stock’s volatility to give you another buying opportunity.
For more on when you might you get another dip that’s a buying opportunity—and how long the current euphoria might last—see my post http://jubakpicks.com/2010/05/11/theyre-back-the-european-banks-that-had-to-be-bailed-out-last-time-are-at-risk-again/
Full disclosure: I own shares of Cummins and Central European Distribution in my personal portfolio.