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Jacob Wolinsky
Jacob Wolinsky
Articles  | Author's Website |

GMO Is Now Bullish on Several Asset Classes

At the bottom of this article is a chart containing GMO’s seven-year forecasts for a variety of asset classes. Comparing these numbers to last month’s, one can see a clear trend. As valuations have gone down, GMO now is increasingly bullish. They expect international high-quality emerging markets and U.S. high-quality to have above historic real returns of 6.5%. Besides emerging markets, bonds are expected to do better or at least the same, as they did last month.

Jeremy Grantham describes what GMO means by high-quality U.S. stocks: "It's high return, stable return and low debt." And, "Quality is quality; we kind of know what it is. It's a great franchise company." However, no exact metrics have been stated.

I assume they (GMO/Grantham) are referring to blue chip stocks, with strong balance sheets and high dividends, stocks such as Coke (KO), Proctor & Gamble (PG), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and other Dow components that have pricing power. However, I have never seen the exact criteria for what qualifies as high quality.

Below are the top 10 holdings from GMO’s Quality mutual fund, which likely would give the best quantitative definition of high quality:

Top 10 Holdings (46.7% of Total Assets)

Company Symbol % Assets YTD Return %
Johnson & Johnson Common Stock JNJ 5.90 8.34
Philip Morris International Inc PM 5.55 20.59
Microsoft Corporation MSFT 5.20 -4.37
Oracle Corporation ORCL 4.90 -10.50
Pfizer, Inc. Common Stock PFE 4.58 22.50
Pfizer, Inc. Common Stock PFE 4.45 11.42
Cisco Systems, Inc. CSCO 4.41 -21.21
Coca-Cola Company (The) Common KO 4.11 4.96
Coca-Cola Company (The) Common KO 4.00 8.54
Exxon Mobil Corporation Common XOM 3.60 13.43

(Not sure why KO and PFE are shown twice; could be a glitch with Yahoo Finance.)

To see GMO's forecast from last month, click here. GMO has made some upward revisions, likely due to the massive market sell-off over the past month. I am not sure why they are so bullish on emerging markets to begin with, as signs of macro problems such as inflation and higher valuations lead me to believe that they will not have the returns that many people are expecting.

At the end of '09, bulls were screaming “Buy China.” However, from Jan. 1, 2010, to present, FXI (iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index) has underperformed the S&P 500. I am not cherry picking data — I specifically picked early 2010, because that is when people seemed to be getting really bullish on China.

It also is hard to group all emerging market countries together. The economies of Russia and India, for example, are far different just based on demographic trends. However, the media just sticks them all together regardless.

However, in Jeremy Grantham’s recent quarterly letter, he explains why he thinks returns in emerging markets will be so high. Here is the quote:

Emerging markets are hard to evaluate because they are clearly going through many phases of development in areal hurry. So what is normal profitability? Probably not the old levels. They are moving toward developed status and probably toward our developed world’s level of profitability. (Yes, James Montier, that would be a change and, therefore, I admit, far from certain.) In a global financial crisis it is also important to remember that their cumulative foreign reserves are remarkable, twice that of the developed countries. But, all things considered, I believe they will outperform other non-high-quality equities for the next seven years and are likely to produce a semi-respectable return for a risky group of about 4% to 5% a year real.

Overall, this chart is slowly gravitating towards more bullish views. Last month’s monthly valuation article, was slightly more bullish as valuations have come down considerably. However, Grantham has put fair value of the S&P500 at 950, which would imply a very large drop from current levels.

Other gurus are more bullish. Charles Royce stated in a recent interview that he expects the market to return 6-8% in the coming years. The market has gone down considerably since then, and therefore one would assume that Charles Royce would raise his estimates. Bruce Berkowitz seems to be very bullish on the market with his investments in financial companies. Warren Buffett seems to be bullish on the economy and valuations.

Seth Klarman on the other hand believes that this will be another lost decade for stocks. Prem Watsa also believes that we are in big trouble and has hedged his portfolio. Robert Rodriguez is very worried about the budget deficit.

GMO Forecast September 2011

About the author:

Jacob Wolinsky
My investment ideas have been inspired by many of value investors including Benjamin Graham, Charles Royce, John Neff, Joel Greenblatt, Peter Lynch, Seth Klarman,Martin Whitman and Bruce Greenwald. .I live with my wife and daughter in Monsey, NY. I can be contacted jacobwolinsky(AT)gmail.com and my blog is www.valuewalk.com

Visit Jacob Wolinsky's Website

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