Barclays has backed European equities to hit new highs in 2021, with 13% potential upside for the Stoxx 600 and two stocks offering more than 50% potential returns.
In their 2021 outlook, equity analysts at the bank said a stock market rally would mostly be driven by earnings-per-share growth, with high-efficacy vaccines bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control and a return to normality bringing about a strong upswing for cyclical stocks.
Barclays economists see global GDP (gross domestic product) growth of 5.4% next year, the sharpest since 2010, which they project will facilitate around a 45% rise in earnings for European corporates from their currently depressed levels.
“Central banks and governments have ammunition left to help sustain the recovery, financial conditions are favourable, and there is pent-up demand given resilient disposable income, high savings and recovering profits,” Emmanuel Cau, head of European equity strategy at Barclays, said in the report.
Cau acknowledged that the short-term outlook remains uncertain as vaccine rollouts and the long-term societal impact of the pandemic are still up in the air, while a recent bullish run for markets has left less room for positive surprises.
However, Barclays does see room for continued rotation away from “relative safe havens” such as bonds, cash, developed markets, U.S. growth and defensive stocks into lesser-owned riskier assets, such as emerging market and European equities, cyclical and value stocks.
“Given the large output gaps, we expect expansionary monetary and fiscal policies to remain firmly in place. The China recovery is broadening, while in the US and Europe, consumer spend and capex should both rebound, and services catch up with manufacturing,” Cau said.
“Against this backdrop, bond yields are more likely to go up than down, which, alongside the weak dollar, should give legs to the reflation trade, favouring value and cyclicals.”
Unwinding the flight to safety
Although cautioning that the road to this normalization will likely be bumpy, Barclays suggested that dips should be bought during what could be a tough and volatile winter.
While sentiment has turned more bullish in recent weeks, Cau pointed out that positioning has generally yet to catch up, indicating that “the unwind of the two-year long flight to safety may just be starting.”
In terms of regional allocation, Barclays is positioning overweight emerging markets versus developed markets and Europe versus the U.K., while market weighting Europe and the U.S.
On a sector level, Cau’s team is overweight financials, industrials, materials and consumer discretionary stocks (non-essential goods and services), and underweight healthcare, consumer staples, telecoms and real estate. Utilities, tech and energy are all at marketweight.