The most likely catalysts for improved relative performance of foreign stocks would be: (1) a bear market; (2) a recession; and, (3) a major downturn in the U.S. dollar. This year has supplied all three, yet the relative strength ratios of most foreign equity composites continue to grind lower as if it’s “business as usual.”
How can an equity manager possibly keep up with the QQQ—an ETF that’s almost 50% invested in the six largest U.S. companies?
Easy! Own the vehicle that benefits the most from a collapse in global trade volume and an escalating cold war between the U.S. and China—the EEM (iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF)!
A dramatic shift of country weights within EM indexes has become an inadvertent challenge for a country rotation strategy. Due to this, we tested the integration of a momentum-based sector rotation model to attain exposure to the top-rated sectors to represent the markets of the largest country components instead of seeking to obtain “whole market” exposure.
The Major Trend Index has remained in neutral territory during the last several weeks of upside action, suggesting there remain significant fundamental and technical shortcomings beneath it all. But this precarious MTI stance didn’t preclude us from acting on a new bullish reading for Emerging Market equities at the end of April.
Last month we assessed the effectiveness of using valuation factors as a basis for country allocation. Using 20 years of data, our results showed that they work quite well specifically for Emerging Market (EM) country-rotation, however, the same valuation-based strategy does not appear to be value-added for Developed Market (DM) allocation/rotation.
We have mentioned a number of times that China had experienced a very unpleasant “second-hand” tightening due to its peg to the dollar. Its trade competitiveness has suffered tremendously. With a weaker dollar the Chinese Yuan can re-gain some of its competitiveness while maintaining its peg to the dollar. A rare win-win in today’s convoluted world of finance.
Emerging Market stocks are probably the cheapest equity subgroup in the world today, trading at 13.0x our 5-Year Normalized EPS estimate—much lower than that of foreign Developed Markets (17.6x) and the S&P 500 (21.3x). But, EM stocks have languished near these valuation levels for almost three years.