A panel of JPMorgan Chase strategists and portfolio managers this week made it clear that while there are opportunities for equities investors in the U.S., there are better options in both developed international equities markets and in emerging markets.

During a Wednesday webcast, all panelists agreed that emerging economies are growing faster than the U.S. economy, which is still mired in a post-recession funk.

But Nigel Emmett, senior client portfolio manager and head of international equities at JPMorgan Chase cautioned that “GDP growth doesn’t always translate into equity growth.” He noted that last year, for example, China’s GDP grew by a blazing 9%, but its equity markets grew only 5% during that period.

At the same time, Emmett also cautioned U.S. investors not to be overweight in emerging markets. Many investors don’t realize, he pointed out, that over the last seven years, European equities outperformed U.S. equities.

"So don’t ignore Europe," he said.

Emerging markets account for about a quarter of the value of all non-U.S. equities, but U.S. investors are putting more than half of all their international bankroll into emerging markets.

Not surprisingly, David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds, thought that was a bad idea.  “Don’t just invest in emerging markets,” he advised. “Spread your money around. Emerging markets will outgrow U.S. markets in the long run, but I would want emerging markets to be a minority share of a foreign equity investment portfolio.”

Asked what their outlooks were for the year ahead, all the panelists said equities were the place to be despite current volatility and unease in the markets.

“I think you’ll make some money in stocks,” said Paul Quinsee, chief investment officer of the US Large Cap Core and Value team at JPMorgan. “Not as much as last year though, and it will be a volatile and uncomfortable ride.”

“On balance, you’ll make money on equities,” agreed Emmett. “But you’ll do better on balance outside the U.S.”

“I think things will gradually get better,” Kelly said, adding that he felt investors as a whole were being too conservative with their investments. “There are lots of risks, so you need to be as diversified as possible. But on balance, equities will outperform fixed income this year, and people are doing exactly the opposite.” 


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