Do you have a "sleeper" or "under the radar" stock in your portfolio?
Vermehren: I suppose our sleeper stock would be
, which is a company that operates copper smelting and refining facilities. Copper refining has been out of favor for 5 years with issues of over-capacity. However, mining volumes are now picking up much faster than refining capacities, so the company is entering the sweet spot. Copper refining rates are also turning upward again due to mining increases that far exceed growth of refining capacity.
Is there a stock or sector in Europe that you are avoiding or underweighting?
Vermehren: Two areas that we are underweighting are utilities and staples. Utilities are undergoing a transformation from nuclear energy to renewable energy. Unfortunately, this is requiring significant investments for companies involved during a time when national politicians are very focused on maintaining price stability for end consumers.
Staples are increasingly coming out of favor as individual companies are feeling the pinch from consumer spending, particularly from the contracting economies around the southern periphery in Europe. It has been a very robust sector over the past year and has been favored by investors as a safe haven. With investors having a renewed appetite for riskier assets since late summer, we have been reducing investments in this sector.
What is your outlook for German and European stocks in 2013?
Vermehren: As the likelihood of a Euro breakup scenario has been powerfully reduced by the strong commitment of the
European Central Bank
, we see a good chance for further gains in European equities. However, markets are likely to swing back and forth with their focus on loose monetary policy and hard economic data. With European leading indicators near trough levels and likely small earnings downgrades ahead, the fundamental picture remains mixed. However, we see further potential for equities as risk premiums should fall on the back of a lowered probability of a tail event.
Moreover, a renewed focus on fundamentals provides excellent stock-picking opportunities. We expect that earnings growth is likely to pick up after negative growth rates in 2012. If valuation multiples pick up as well, given the renewed hunt for yield and increased risk appetite, then another good year for equities could follow.