The European equity landscape amid the energy crisis
Head of Equity Strategy
Summary: European equities have been split into two parts with the energy and defensive sectors holding up well while consumer discretionary, real estate, and information technology stocks have been hit hard this year from higher interest rates and galloping energy costs. We remain defensive on equities overall, but in our equity note today we highlight the themes we like including the equity factor quality which we believe will see less margin compression than the weaker companies with less strong balance sheets and operating metrics.
Investors are running away from real estate, IT and consumer discretionary stocks
European equities are down 12.1% this year which given an economic slowdown and historic energy crisis pushing up cost-of-living is quite acceptable. One reason why it has not been such a bad year after all, is that the energy sector is 35.5% this year and the European equity market is heavy on consumer staples and health care stocks which have also done well. Despite some utilities are being thrown a lifeline by European governments, the overall utility sector has held up well offering its defensive qualities.
The real damage this year has been in real estate as yields have surged pushing up mortgage costs. Quite stunningly, the European real estate sector is now down 24% over the past 5 years offering no income for its investors. With financial conditions set to tighten significantly from here to cool down inflation the sector is likely going to face more headwinds. The IT sector is still interest rate sensitive through higher bond yields and the share price declines have put pressure on operating costs as the value of employee stock options has fallen. Finally, the consumer discretionary sector is hard hit by the cost-of-living crisis as we also described in our recent equity note Consumer stocks to be hit by historically high energy costs.
Regular readers of our research will know that we are still positive on commodities with energy being the main driver of returns and other tangible-driven themes such as defence, logistics, and renewable energy. Across equity factors we urge investors to seek defensive characteristics in high quality companies as they will be forced to eat less into their operating margins than the weaker players in the different industries. The 10 largest holdings in the iShares Edge MSCI Europe Quality Factor UCITS ETF are listed below. These names are not investment recommendations, but simply names that are part of the quality theme, which can be defined in many ways. One main risk for the quality factor is that these stocks come with high equity valuations and thus are a bit more interest rate sensitive than the average European stock.
- Novo Nordisk
- Rio Tinto
Finally, it is important to reiterate our base case scenario. We remain defensive and expect the global equity market to correct around 33% from its peak before we have found a bottom. This view is driven by our view that inflation will be structurally higher than in previous periods due to deglobalization and operating margins will come under pressure from higher wages and higher yields.
Latest Market Insights
Quarterly Outlook Q3 2022: The Runaway Train
- Winter is coming to the financial markets as central banks are tightening their grip. How spring will look is still a question.
European energy crisis: it will get worse before it gets betterThe winter in Europe will be tough, but whether the result is political chaos or sustainable, innovative solutions is still undecided.
A difficult and volatile quarter awaitsAs the year draws to an end, commodities continue to be at centre stage of the world with growth pockets political uncertainty.
The bright side: crises drive innovationThe positive spin on crises is that they come with solutions. It is worrisome that deglobalisation may be a response to this crisis.
Green transformation in China: renewable energy and beyondGoing green, China needs to span numerous energy sources to ensure stability, as every source comes with a challenge.
Asia: Intermittent solutions, but a faster renewable adoption curveAsian energy supply is being squeezed. This and the adoption of renewables may change the investment sentiment in the region.
FX: A Fed thaw needed to deliver a sustained USD turn lowerThe US Dollar can keep momentum when the Federal Reserve continues to tighten, leaving the rest to play to their drum.
Autumn can become ugly for equities and bond holders. Comfort for Dollar longsTechnical analysis suggests that equities could face a tough Q4 as could fixed income. US Dollar positions could provide some upside.
The next stock market sector to watch, with stocks going nuclearAs the world scrambles to find affordable, sustainable energy, nuclear is getting attention from politicians and investors alike.
The crypto space is getting cold when the hype disappearsCryptocurrencies face a winter of their own as retail investors and governments are asking tough questions.