Monday Oct 30, 2023

Equity Strategy - Open UW in Banks, add to Healthcare; Peripheral views; Earnings season update

Speaker: Mislav Matejka, CFA, Head of Global Equity Strategy

We are advising to open a short in European Banks, and we move the sector from Neutral to UW. Banks have been one of the best performers in the past 6 months, second only to Energy, are ahead nicely ytd, up 8% vs SXXP at 1%, to be cumulatively ahead by 60% since Sept 2020. If bond yields are in the process of peaking this quarter, as we suspect, then Banks could start to struggle. After all, the Banks rally was underpinned by the sharp move up in bond yields over the past 3 years, with German 10 year moving from -0.5% to 3%, and US 10 year from 1% to 5%. Any potential fall in yields, or the ECB cuts next year, will reduce Banks’ profitability. Further, Banks’ deposit base is likely to fall, and with rising deposit betas their net interest income is likely peaking now. From the regulatory side, the sector might not enjoy as favourable a backdrop as it did recently, with buybacks and capital return to shareholders as good as they get. Finally, Banks remain much more levered than any other sector, and are a beta play on the overall activity. Banks could suffer if economies enter contraction, and if some of the very benign credit backdrop changes next year, with spreads widening and delinquencies rising. We are using the funds to upgrade Healthcare, from Neutral to OW. The sector has lagged this year, but could benefit from high USD exposure, low beta and the long duration angle. If Banks start to lag, then the periphery could fall behind core markets. Periphery nicely outperformed the core for a while, Italy is top European performer ytd, up 15%, but Banks relative and peripheral markets relative performances remain very strongly correlated. We remain bearish on the market direction, and our sector positioning stays the barbell of commodities – led by Energy, and the bond proxies – such as Utilities and Staples, which are catching up post the earlier poor performance. This is likely to continue if the long duration trade takes hold, and if the earnings momentum for the overall market deteriorates.

This podcast was recorded on 29 October 2023.

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