JPMorgan Pushes 'Pro-Cyclical' Stocks

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- JPMorgan Chase's ( JPM) investment bank believes the stock market is still flashing "buy" signals, even after the recent run-up.

Strategists at JPMorgan are particularly bullish on so-called "pro-cyclical" stocks like materials, consumer discretionary and industrials and bearish on utilities, health care and financial stocks - particularly European banks.

"When we add all investors in the world,...we find that equity shares are only at their 20- year means," Jan Loeys, head of asset allocation, wrote in a note to clients on Friday. "Retail investors have only started buying equity funds a few months ago and are thus surely not long equities yet."

JPMorgan has been long equities for some time. In recent months, the investment bank has shifted clients' global portfolio weighting of cash from a high near 45% to less than 40%, while raising equity exposure from roughly 22% to 30%; that weighting is now on par with fixed income.

Interestingly, though, the bank reversed a position that favored emerging market (EM) stocks over developed markets (DM). Loeys indicated that strategists did this for technical reasons as well as signs that equities in markets like Asia and Latin America may face pressure in the near term.

"The intensification of EM 'currency wars,' with more aggressive action from Chile and Brazil this week, is another headwind for EM equities," said Loeys. "Greater FX intervention and capital controls are affecting EM currencies and bonds more directly, but they also discourage EM equity investments given that most investors buy EM equities on a currency unhedged basis."

Loeys' team is also cautious about the risks related to inflation and sovereign-debt issues, but maintains an appetite for risk.

"We have compared these risks in the past with brushfires that we simply try to skirt by underweighting the assets most vulnerable to them, without having an overall underweight of risky assets," he said.

Loeys' report doesn't mention specific stocks, but gives a lay-of-the-land overview on asset allocation and strategy.

Broadly speaking, the types of stocks that fit into the segments JPMorgan is bullish on include materials and industrials stocks like Dow Chemical ( DOW), Caterpillar ( CAT) and 3M ( MMM) and consumer discretionary stocks like Nike ( NKE) or Nordstrom ( JWN), which would do well as the economy expands. On the other hand, JPMorgan thinks "safe haven" equities like utilities and health-care companies have limited upside. Exelon ( EXC), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), Bank of America ( BAC) and JPMorgan itself would fall into those categories.

As for contrarians who might be skeptical about all the bullish advice from analysts and strategists, Loeys offered the following advice: "All strategists are bullish equities. Is that not a bearish signal? The answer should be No. It is not because strategists are bullish that investors are all long equities."

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York.

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