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Be realistic, be selective. We believe this market rally has pushed
valuations to the point where growth expectations have reached
implausible levels. In fact, profits have just begun to turn down. We are
not overly bearish – our Buy list is longer than our Sell list – but we
caution that optimism over growth can disappear as quickly as it
appeared. Domestic factors, particularly political developments, may
be a positive catalyst.
Profit recession has just begun. Industrial production peaked in
January 2008, but profits only began a broad-based decline in 1Q09.
Within our coverage, 63% of the companies that have released 1Q
earnings reported lower sequential quarterly net profits. In seven
sectors, our entire coverage list suffered profit contractions. This
suggests the recession in profits has just begun.
Market valuation implies an optimistic view of growth. The market
currently trades at 15.2x 2009 earnings, up from 12x earlier this year.
This is only 10% below the previous cycle’s mid-cycle value, but today,
we face growth of -7.7% (2009) and +9.7% (2010), taking market
earnings only 1% higher by the end of 2010 from its end-2008 level.
Market growth expectations seem to be running ahead of reality.
History tells us the bear market isn’t over. Two previous bear
markets over 1981-86 and 1993-98 lasted 57 and 58 months
respectively. It has now been 17 months from the January 2008
collapse. Those bear markets had 22-38 trend reversals of 5% or more;
we have now seen 12 since January 2008. These comparisons suggest
we are, at best, half way through this bear market.
Bet on Prime Minister Najib, but Sell hope. Our top stock picks are
in the construction sector. We expect PM Najib will deliver on the fiscal
spending promises, reinvigorating the construction and building
materials sectors. Our top Sells are stocks where high hopes and
expectations have been built in; where current prices have run well
ahead of both our and consensus target prices.
Politics a positive wildcard. Beyond rapidly executed fiscal packages,
the country’s new leadership could make further changes to longstanding
policies to attract foreign investment and win back broader
support from all Malaysians. These initiatives should be positive for
equity market at least in the short-term.