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Holding forth

The majority of fund managers still consider European equities to be a “buy”. In the past month, the Axa Framlington and Newton European fund managers have increased their recommendations from a “hold” to a “buy” while other fund managers such as Credit Suisse, Fidelity, Gartmore, Jupiter and Threadneedle are still optimistic.

This is despite a good run over the last three years to September 1, when the average European unit trust has risen by over 58 per cent. Neptune European Opportunities is leading the pack with returns of over 120 per cent.

Economic growth in Europe has been slow, averaging only a modest 2.2 per cent over the past three years, although the forecast is that this will rise to 2.7 per cent by the end of this year. Germany, in particular, has shown a very poor rate of growth of only 0.25 per cent. But its stockmarket has been performing well because most companies are aggressively cutting costs and restructuring by expanding into the former Soviet Bloc countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic and transferring their production to these countries where costs are much cheaper.

As a result, many German companies have increased their profits and their share in global markets. In fact, Germany is now the world’s biggest goods exporter.

Apart from Neptune, two other trusts I like are JPM Europe dynamic, which has only been going for about two years and has shown returns of over 75 per cent, and Jupiter European special situations fund, where the new manager, Cedric de Fonclare, is continuing to carry on the good previous performance.

It is interesting to note that very few of all three trusts’ top 10 holdings are the same so, by spreading a client’s European holdings between these three funds, investors should have a very wide spread of shares.

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