The continent of Europe is known for magnificent architecture, classical art, and a rich cultural history. But despite these glories, in financial circles these days, Europe might as well be comedian Rodney Dangerfield: It gets no respect.
As the Greek debt crisis has grown in magnitude, world stock markets have taken a swift turn for the worse. Most fund managers are fleeing Europe, convinced that subpar economic growth is almost inevitable. However, some trend-bucking managers are still finding a few things to like across the Atlantic.
Bargains in the rubble
Manager Francis Claro of the Evergreen Global Opportunities Fund (EKGAX) believes concerns over the stability of European governments are exaggerated. While the region faces difficulty, he believes companies that can expand on niche product lines or export to emerging markets should still do well.
Claro's recent purchases of U.K. homebuilder Bovis Homes and Dutch temporary staffing company USG People are intended to capitalize on a rebounding housing and employment market. Claro and his team have also recently cut back on Chinese companies China Gas Holdings and Sinotrans Shipping. A near-term European rebound is unlikely to be strong enough to meaningfully benefit Claro's European choices, but as the area begins a slow recovery, there could be some strong medium-term potential.
The best defense
On the other side of the coin, John Hussman, who runs the $5.5 billion Hussman Strategic Growth Fund (HSGFX), sees stocks as generally overbought and overpriced. He's defensively positioned and has warned of higher levels of risk even in the domestic market. But Hussman has found a few European companies he thinks are worth the risk, and he has made a number of changes in light of recent market volatility.
Hussman purchased Swiss health-care company Novartis
Investors shouldn't disregard (or disrespect) Europe completely, but they should exercise caution in the near future. Think about allocating any new money to other areas of the globe, including emerging markets or Japan. Opportunities do exist in Europe for long-term investors, but expect increased risk and volatility for some time.