European Rally of 15% Forecast by Stock Strategists as Earnings Top Greece

The fastest profit growth since 2004 will push European stocks up 15 percent by January, handing investors the biggest two-year advance in a decade, according to estimates from 13 strategists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The euro’s 14 percent retreat against the dollar will boost earnings at least 25 percent this year, according to UBS AG’s Nick Nelson and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Peter Oppenheimer in London. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index has dropped 5.6 percent from its April high, trimming its 2010 gain to 1.2 percent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Strategists recommend buying shares because the global economic rebound will overcome concerns that governments will default in Europe. Two consecutive months of declines pushed the Stoxx 600’s price to 14.4 times annual income on May 25, the lowest ratio since 2008, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“Share prices have discounted much of the impact of the debt problem,” said Nelson, who projects a 19 percent gain in the FTSEurofirst 300 Index by year end. “There will be fiscal austerity packages and yes that’s a drag on growth, but not enough to derail the recovery.”

Earnings Forecasts

Earnings for Stoxx 600 companies are forecast to rise 70 percent this year, the most since the 82 percent jump in 2004, according to more than 11,000 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Oppenheimer, Goldman Sachs’s chief European strategist, estimates a 38 percent increase in the region’s profits, while UBS’s Nelson predicts a 25 percent gain.

The 15 percent increase in equities forecast by strategists would send the Stoxx 600 to 295 by year end, a 49 percent gain from the close of 2008. The benchmark gauge for European equities slipped 0.6 percent to 255.28 at 8:51 a.m. in London.

Gary Baker, strategist for Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit in London, estimates earnings-per-share will increase 5 to 8 percent for every 10 percent loss in the euro against a basket of currencies. The single European currency is heading for the biggest annual drop since 1999 amid concern budget gaps in Greece, Spain and Portugal will spur sovereign defaults.

New York-based Morgan Stanley, which began 2010 as the only firm to forecast a retreat by year-end, now sees a 16 percent surge in stocks over the next 12 months.

‘Growth Driver’

“Exports, facilitated by a weak euro, can be a growth driver,” said Guillaume Duchesne, a Luxembourg-based equity strategist at BGL BNP Paribas, which oversees about $117 billion. “That is one of the strongest drivers for the stock market. Stocks will remain volatile, but will move higher by year end.” Duchesne declined to give a forecast.

The euro’s depreciation is boosting the value of Paris- based Pernod Ricard SA’s sales in the U.S. and China, Finance Director Gilles Bogaert said in a May 20 interview. The maker of Absolut vodka estimated earnings before interest and taxes will increase by 12 million euros ($14.8 million) for every 1 percent slide in the euro against the dollar. Shares of the French company have climbed 14 percent this year.

STMicroelectronics NV, Europe’s biggest chipmaker, will generate $8 million to $10 million of additional operating profit per quarter for every 1 percent drop in the euro, Chief Financial Officer Carlo Ferro said in a briefing in Hong Kong on June 18. The Geneva-based company’s shares have advanced 12 percent in 2010.

Underestimated Rally

Brokerages underestimated the rally in European stocks last year. Goldman Sachs’s Oppenheimer said in January 2009 that indexes would climb 20 percent by the end of the year if credit markets recovered and the pace of economic deterioration slowed. Baker’s team at Merrill, which was renamed after the takeover by Bank of America, estimated a 9.1 percent advance for 2009. The Stoxx 600 surged 28 percent, the biggest annual gain since 1999.

Demand from investors buying Spanish, Portuguese and Italian government bonds in June may show the worst of the sovereign-debt crisis is over, according to Edmund Shing at Barclays Capital in London. Spain sold 3.5 billion euros of bonds on June 17, the maximum set for the auction as investors bid for 1.9 times the amount on offer. Shing forecasts the Euro Stoxx 50 Index will reach 3,100 by the end of this year, 13 percent higher than yesterday’s close.

Spending cuts in the most indebted countries may hurt growth. Greece has raised taxes and trimmed wages to tackle its deficit, which swelled to 13.6 percent of gross domestic product last year. The government forecasts that the austerity measures will deepen the country’s recession, leading the economy to contract 4 percent this year, about twice the 2009 pace. Spain is seeking to trim the euro region’s third-largest deficit to 6 percent of GDP by 2011.

‘Anxiety About Europe’

“The anxiety about Europe is justified in the short term,” said James Bristow, a fund manager of global equities funds in London for BlackRock Inc., which oversees $3.4 trillion worldwide. “Our estimates will have to be adjusted as we go through this tightening.”

Seven of the analysts surveyed forecast at least a 15 percent gain for European equities by the end of the year. Mislav Matejka, head of European equity strategy at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in London expects stocks to climb 18 percent, while Merrill’s Baker predicts a 17 percent gain.

“Earnings will surprise on the upside,” Matejka wrote in a report to clients this week. “The recovery will prove sustainable.”


Brokerage           Strategist          Index     Forecast
RBS                 Graham Bishop       SXXP      275 (+7%)
ING*                Patrick Moonen      SXXP      300 (+17%)
Natixis             Benoit Peloille     SX5E      3,150 (+15%)
Morgan Stanley**    Teun Draaisma       MSDLE15   1,280 (+17%)
UBS                 Nick Nelson         E300      1,250 (+19%)
Unicredit           Gerhard Schwarz     SXXP      255 (-0.7%)
Citigroup           Jonathan Stubbs     SXXP      280 (+9%)
Goldman Sachs       Peter Oppenheimer   SXXP      300 (+17%)
JPMorgan            Mislav Matejka      MSDLE15   1,300 (+19%)
Barclays            Edmund Shing        SX5E      3,100 (+13%)
BofA Merrill Lynch  Gary Baker          SXXP      300 (+17%)
Nomura              Ian Scott           SX5E      3,100 (+13%)
Societe Generale    Claudia Panseri     SXXP      260 (+1.2%)

     *ING Groep NV’s Patrick Moonen forecasts the Stoxx 600 will
rise to between 290 and 300 by year end. The upper end of this
range has been used in Bloomberg’s calculations.
     **Teun Draaisma left Morgan Stanley this month. His team
will now be headed by Graham Secker. Morgan Stanley’s forecast
is for a gain over the next 12 months rather than for the end of
2010.

To contact the reporters on this story: Adria Cimino in Paris at acimino1@bloomberg.net; Adam Haigh in London at ahaigh1@bloomberg.net.

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