HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – Never mind the coronavirus-fueled volatility. With the slide in Asia stock prices, analysts have turned increasingly bullish on the shares.
Buy ratings make up almost 70 per cent of about 26,000 analyst recommendations for equities in the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the highest proportion since at least 2010, and up from about 66 per cent at the end of last year, before the global outbreak started.
Analysts have grown increasingly bullish on individual stocks this year as the virus spread, depressing valuations. At the March trough, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index traded at less than 11 times estimated earnings for the next year, the lowest level since 2012. While it’s now rebounded to 13.7 times, it remains below previous highs.
Buying the sell-off has paid off for investors recently, with the Asian benchmark now up 20 per cent from its four-year low last month.
Despite concerns that investors in crowded trades are vulnerable to a potential second wave of selling, the overall positive nature of analysts’ ratings makes sense given this won’t be a traditional recession, said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp.
“These are historical times,” Innes said. “In the past, when we get into recessions they are multi-faceted, it’s not just one sector of the economy that’s imploding. But this time around the recessionary input is the virus. It’s governments that have shut the economy down, which makes it unique.”
This also explains why analysts are targeting specific industries that are more geared to leverage growth after the virus outbreak. Their favorite is healthcare, with about 75 per cent of ratings a buy, while the industrials, information technology and real estate sectors are also above 70 per cent, the data show. Financial firms are the least attractive, with 65 per cent buy recommendations.
Healthcare equities are appealing because of the hunt for a Covid-19 cure and the related products and services needed to combat the outbreak, Innes said. Then there is tech, which has come to the forefront as millions use virtual conferences and other online tools to work from home. And finally, industrials are attractive as countries emerging from the virus’ shadow will start to fire up their domestic industries in an economic recovery, he added.
“Buy what makes sense,” he said. “These kinds of things resonate in a pandemic.”