NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With contagion fears from Greece's credit crisis roiling global markets and lackluster U.S. economic data giving investors little to feel bullish about, equities hardly seem appealing. However, forecasts are calling for a slight pickup in growth in the second half of the year, which means that there are opportunities to be had in certain sectors of the equity market -- particularly in technology and industrials.
Economists generally agree with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's recent assessment that current drags on the economy are "transitory." Already, economists note abatement in the negative effects of production disruptions from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and weakness from unseasonable and severe weather in the U.S. Greece is widely anticipated to push through the stringent austerity measures needed to receive more financial aid, allowing them to sidestep default and clear contagion concerns.
"Despite the lingering risks of deleveraging, the nonfinancial corporate sector is having a robust recovery in profits and relative valuations are attractive; so as the macroeconomic outlook stabilizes, equities should regain upside momentum," said Barry Knapp, head of U.S. equity strategy at Barclays Capital in a recent third-quarter outlook note.
Knapp sees a rebound in auto production as driving better growth in the third quarter, but sees growth concerns persisting into the fourth quarter since even Bernanke admitted that there could be some longer-term economic issues such as weakness in the financial sector and problems in the housing market contributing to the recent soft patch. The central bank recently cut its 2011 growth forecasts to between 2.7% and 2.9%, from its previous range of 3.1% to 3.3%.However, Knapp said that while third-quarter earnings may not show strong indications of increasing capital investments, they shouldn't show signs of weakening either. "The secular outlook is good in part due to underinvestment in capital during the prior business cycle, and accelerated depreciation should help on the margin," he said. Barclays recommends buying U.S. equities on weakness during the summer and are overweight on the industrial, technology and healthcare sectors. Larry Kantor, head of research at Barclays Capital, said that if Greece avoids default and temporary negatives fade, "the recent slide in equity markets and generalized reduction in risk is likely to be reversed, and could even represent a short-term buying opportunity in equities and in some credit markets, particularly in the U.S., where a [third quarter] growth rebound seems most likely and where policy will remain extremely supportive." Jeff Palma, global equity strategist for UBS Investment Research, also believes we're in a temporary slowdown but believes that the pickup in growth will play out a little differently than similar situations in the past. "We've been saying that we're in a maturing recovery so I think cyclical sectors and the defensive sectors will be a little more aligned than they have been in previous recoveries," Palma said. He also believes the case for technology is strong since businesses are expected to start spending more in the second half of the year and that technology should benefit from that. Palma also said tech is cheap but warned against getting too excited about cheap sectors. "The problem that we find is that the sectors that look cheap on a historical basis are some of the same ones where there have been some challenges," he said, pointing to financials and utilities. "We have to recognize why valuations are what they are - you can't just chase cheap value." Here are a few sectors were market strategists see value in the second half of the year.
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