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UBP in the press 07.02.2018

French small and mid caps: high potential in 2018

French small and mid caps: high potential in 2018

Smaller companies have now performed strongly over a number of years following the financial crisis and have a history of strong relative returns over the long term. What are the main contributing factors to these positive returns, and will the outperformance that has been seen in 2017 be followed by further strength in 2018?


European smaller companies turned in a strong performance in 2017, with returns of 19.03% from the MSCI Europe Small Cap index, comparing favourably to the MSCI Europe Index return of 10.24%*. Smaller companies have now performed strongly over a number of years following the financial crisis and have a history of strong relative returns over the long term. What are the main contributing factors to these positive returns, and will the outperformance that has been seen in 2017 be followed by further strength in 2018?

The merits of investing in smaller companies as part of a diversified portfolio are often overlooked by investors. Clearly smaller companies can be prone to slightly higher levels of short-term volatility, but long-term investors in a diversified portfolio are compensated by positive risk-adjusted returns. The smaller company universe has a higher exposure to more nascent, innovative and faster growing industries. Simply being smaller in size means that it is easier to produce stronger rates of growth in sales, earnings and cash flow from an often more focused and flexible business. And as small companies grow and become better known by the market they attract more attention from investors and liquidity improves, thereby helping the liquidity risk premium to contract. These factors can make for a powerful combination.

The smaller companies market is also relatively inefficient, with low levels of analyst coverage. This results in a less dynamic flow of information in the small-cap universe and greater levels of inefficiency, meaning that investors can benefit from price anomalies. With the onset of MiFID II creating some disruption around how analyst research is paid for, it is unlikely that we will see a higher level of coverage of small caps in the medium term. As a result that market is likely to remain a favourable hunting ground for active investors searching for interesting growth opportunities during 2018 and beyond.

2017 was an interesting year for smaller companies, following on from a year where larger companies outperformed slightly. The numerous political concerns faced by the market in Europe coming into 2017 (France and the Netherlands in particular) quickly abated during the first six months of the year, and a more synchronised European macroeconomic recovery took hold.

GDP forecasts were revised upwards in a wide range of European countries and business surveys such as the PMI pointed to continued strength in the underlying economy coming into 2018. This is important for the smaller companies because they have a higher weighting towards cyclical segments of the market: industrials, engineering, business services, and information technology. Smaller companies also have a slightly higher exposure to domestic Europe than their large-cap counterparts which has provided something of a support as the US dollar weakened during 2017.

Moving into 2018, many of the same underlying drivers that were seen in 2017 remain in place. Recent readings from manufacturing and service PMIs in Europe have remained strong, and both core European and peripheral European economies are making good progress. This bodes well for smaller companies which have seen a correlation to PMIs in the past. Market forecasts for smaller companies point to mid-teens earnings growth and valuations remain broadly in line with their large-cap counterparts when looked at on an equally weighted basis. French companies are particularly interesting for small-cap investors at present as business sentiment improves and corporates start to see the early benefits of labour reforms with further potential benefits from tax reform to come. Irish corporates continue to benefit strongly from an improving macroeconomic picture boosted by the early reforms put in place by the Irish government after the financial crisis. From a sector point of view, industrials, business services and IT should also remain well placed to benefit from the macroeconomic tailwinds in domestic Europe.

More about SMIDs Caps

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Charlie Anniss
Small- and Mid-Cap Portfolio Manager, European Equities team

 

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Market insight 25.04.2018

France: consumer confidence under stabilization

France: Consumer confidence (Apr.): 101 vs 100 expected (prior: 100)

  • Sentiment is less negative on personal situation and on standard of living; in details, prices, and unemployment to a lesser extent, were sources of rising concerns.
  • In absolute terms, the index remained well above the levels reached before the financial crisis, pointing towards good fundamentals for households. The index could stabilize around these current levels, which stayed below levels reached in Q4-17.

 

Spain: PPI (March): -0.9% m/m (prior: 0% revised from 0.1%)

  • Prices were up by 1.3% y/y after 1.2% y/y past month. Energy prices have fallen by 3% m/m.

 

Poland: Unemployment rate (March): 6.6% vs 6.5% expected (prior: 6.8%)

  • The decrease of unemployed has accelerated: -35 k after -7 k past month.

 

Brazil: Current account (March): 798 M$ vs -100 M$ expected (prior: 290 M$ revised from 283 M$)

  • Current account has jumped into a surplus for the second month; FDI has also jumped from USD 4.7 bn to USD 6.5 bn over the month.

 

Turkey: Central bank has increased liquidity lending rate from 12.75% to 13.50%.

  • Repo rate was unchanged at 8%, overnight lending rate unchanged at 9.25% and overnight borrowing rate unchanged at 7.25%.
  • In its statement, central bank mentioned that it wanted to implement some tightening in order to preserve price stability, as inflation and expectations have increased.
Market insight 24.04.2018

Richmond Fed manufacturing fell sharply in April, disappointing German IFO survey

US: Richmond Fed manufacturing (Apr): -3 vs 16 expected (prior: 15)

  • The index fell sharply in April for the second consecutive month.

  • The underlying composition was generally weak, with sharp declines in the shipments and new orders components.

US: Consumer confidence (CB) (Apr): 128.7 vs 126 expected (prior: 127 revised from 127.7)

  • The improvement in confidence was spread evenly across the present situation and expectations indices.

US: New home sales (Mar): 694k vs 630k expected (prior: 667k revised from 618k)

  • On a m/m basis: 4% vs 1.9% expected (prior: 3.6% revised from -0.6%)

  • By region, March sales increased in the West (+28.3%), South (+0.8%) but declined in the Northeast (-54.8%) and Midwest (-2.4%). Inventory available on the market edged down to 5.2 months of available supply, towards the lower end of its 12-month range.

US: Housing prices (FFHA) (Feb): 0.6% q/q as expected (prior: 0.9% revised from 0.8%)

Germany: IFO (Apr): 102.1 vs 102.8 expected (prior: 103.3 revised from 103.2)

  • Expectations: 98.7 vs 99.5 expected (prior: 100 revised from 103.2)

  • Current assessment: 105.7 vs 106 expected (prior: 106.6 revised from 106.5)

  • The headline decline was driven by a drop in expectations. From a sector perspective, sentiment in manufacturing eased further from high levels, while construction and retail sentiment improved slightly.

  • Note that there have been methodological changes to the survey this month, which in theory should make it a better guide to German GDP growth.

France: Business confidence (Apr): 108 as expected (prior: 109)

  • Manufacturing: 109 vs 110 expected (prior: 110 revised from 111)

Market insight 23.04.2018

Flash PMI manufacturing: higher in the US but lower in the eurozone; flash PMI services higher in the US and in the eurozone

US: Markit Manufacturing PMI (Apr.): 56.5 vs 55.2 expected (prior: 55.6)

  • Flash estimate of business sentiment in manufacturing has rebounded from past month thanks to new orders and production.
  • These data, if confirmed, will fuel the scenario of a rebound in activity in Q2.

 

US: Markit Services PMI (Apr.): 54.4 vs 54.1 expected (prior: 54)

  • A modest rebound in flash estimate for services: improving new orders, but lower employment.

 

US: Existing home sales (March): 5.6M vs 5.55M expected (prior: 5.54M)

  • A rebound in sales of condos, but a modest rise in single family house. Inventories were slightly on the rise.
  • Median and average prices of houses sold remained on a strong trend (respectively: 5.8% y/y; 4.1% y/y).
  • Trend in sales remain positive, but monthly data were highly volatile over the past four months.

 

Eurozone: PMI Manufacturing (Apr.): 56 vs 56.1 expected (prior: 56.6)

  • Flash estimate of business sentiment has eroded further from past month; the fall was limited in Germany (-0.1 point) but larger in France (-0.3 pt).
  • Business sentiment has probably weakened in peripherals leading to the monthly fall in total estimate.
  • Growth should stabilize at a slightly lower pace in Q1-Q2 compared to the highs seen in Q4.

 

Eurozone: PMI Services (Apr.): 55 vs 54.6 expected (prior: 54.9)

  • Flash estimate in services has slightly increased from past month; sentiment has increased more in France (+0.5 pt) than in Germany (+0.2 pt).

 

Poland: Retail sales (March): 17.8% m/m vs 16.6% expected (prior: -3%)

  • Trend in sales has accelerated from 7.9% y/y to 9.2% y/y (8.8% y/y in real terms).
  • The rebound was broad-based across sectors.

 

Switzerland: M3 (March): 3.3% y/y (prior: 3.7%)

  • Growth pace of monetary aggregates has slowed down from past month.

Further reading

Market insight 25.04.2018

France: consumer confidence under stabilization

France: Consumer confidence (Apr.): 101 vs 100 expected (prior: 100)

  • Sentiment is less negative on personal situation and on standard of living; in details, prices, and unemployment to a lesser extent, were sources of rising concerns.
  • In absolute terms, the index remained well above the levels reached before the financial crisis, pointing towards good fundamentals for households. The index could stabilize around these current levels, which stayed below levels reached in Q4-17.

 

Spain: PPI (March): -0.9% m/m (prior: 0% revised from 0.1%)

  • Prices were up by 1.3% y/y after 1.2% y/y past month. Energy prices have fallen by 3% m/m.

 

Poland: Unemployment rate (March): 6.6% vs 6.5% expected (prior: 6.8%)

  • The decrease of unemployed has accelerated: -35 k after -7 k past month.

 

Brazil: Current account (March): 798 M$ vs -100 M$ expected (prior: 290 M$ revised from 283 M$)

  • Current account has jumped into a surplus for the second month; FDI has also jumped from USD 4.7 bn to USD 6.5 bn over the month.

 

Turkey: Central bank has increased liquidity lending rate from 12.75% to 13.50%.

  • Repo rate was unchanged at 8%, overnight lending rate unchanged at 9.25% and overnight borrowing rate unchanged at 7.25%.
  • In its statement, central bank mentioned that it wanted to implement some tightening in order to preserve price stability, as inflation and expectations have increased.
Market insight 24.04.2018

Richmond Fed manufacturing fell sharply in April, disappointing German IFO survey

US: Richmond Fed manufacturing (Apr): -3 vs 16 expected (prior: 15)

  • The index fell sharply in April for the second consecutive month.

  • The underlying composition was generally weak, with sharp declines in the shipments and new orders components.

US: Consumer confidence (CB) (Apr): 128.7 vs 126 expected (prior: 127 revised from 127.7)

  • The improvement in confidence was spread evenly across the present situation and expectations indices.

US: New home sales (Mar): 694k vs 630k expected (prior: 667k revised from 618k)

  • On a m/m basis: 4% vs 1.9% expected (prior: 3.6% revised from -0.6%)

  • By region, March sales increased in the West (+28.3%), South (+0.8%) but declined in the Northeast (-54.8%) and Midwest (-2.4%). Inventory available on the market edged down to 5.2 months of available supply, towards the lower end of its 12-month range.

US: Housing prices (FFHA) (Feb): 0.6% q/q as expected (prior: 0.9% revised from 0.8%)

Germany: IFO (Apr): 102.1 vs 102.8 expected (prior: 103.3 revised from 103.2)

  • Expectations: 98.7 vs 99.5 expected (prior: 100 revised from 103.2)

  • Current assessment: 105.7 vs 106 expected (prior: 106.6 revised from 106.5)

  • The headline decline was driven by a drop in expectations. From a sector perspective, sentiment in manufacturing eased further from high levels, while construction and retail sentiment improved slightly.

  • Note that there have been methodological changes to the survey this month, which in theory should make it a better guide to German GDP growth.

France: Business confidence (Apr): 108 as expected (prior: 109)

  • Manufacturing: 109 vs 110 expected (prior: 110 revised from 111)

Market insight 23.04.2018

Flash PMI manufacturing: higher in the US but lower in the eurozone; flash PMI services higher in the US and in the eurozone

US: Markit Manufacturing PMI (Apr.): 56.5 vs 55.2 expected (prior: 55.6)

  • Flash estimate of business sentiment in manufacturing has rebounded from past month thanks to new orders and production.
  • These data, if confirmed, will fuel the scenario of a rebound in activity in Q2.

 

US: Markit Services PMI (Apr.): 54.4 vs 54.1 expected (prior: 54)

  • A modest rebound in flash estimate for services: improving new orders, but lower employment.

 

US: Existing home sales (March): 5.6M vs 5.55M expected (prior: 5.54M)

  • A rebound in sales of condos, but a modest rise in single family house. Inventories were slightly on the rise.
  • Median and average prices of houses sold remained on a strong trend (respectively: 5.8% y/y; 4.1% y/y).
  • Trend in sales remain positive, but monthly data were highly volatile over the past four months.

 

Eurozone: PMI Manufacturing (Apr.): 56 vs 56.1 expected (prior: 56.6)

  • Flash estimate of business sentiment has eroded further from past month; the fall was limited in Germany (-0.1 point) but larger in France (-0.3 pt).
  • Business sentiment has probably weakened in peripherals leading to the monthly fall in total estimate.
  • Growth should stabilize at a slightly lower pace in Q1-Q2 compared to the highs seen in Q4.

 

Eurozone: PMI Services (Apr.): 55 vs 54.6 expected (prior: 54.9)

  • Flash estimate in services has slightly increased from past month; sentiment has increased more in France (+0.5 pt) than in Germany (+0.2 pt).

 

Poland: Retail sales (March): 17.8% m/m vs 16.6% expected (prior: -3%)

  • Trend in sales has accelerated from 7.9% y/y to 9.2% y/y (8.8% y/y in real terms).
  • The rebound was broad-based across sectors.

 

Switzerland: M3 (March): 3.3% y/y (prior: 3.7%)

  • Growth pace of monetary aggregates has slowed down from past month.