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Manager picks: five underdog stocks to watch in 2016

Manager picks: five underdog stocks to watch in 2016

After a turbulent 2015, investors are likely to give 2016 a cautious welcome. With a Fed rate hike likely to come through later this month, they will be braced for more volatility in financial markets.

Global growth is also expected to be largely sluggish, with developed markets expected to have the edge relative to their emerging counterparts. With a low interest rate environment expected to continue, equities continue to be moderately favoured over bonds.

In an investor update, GAM managers picked five stocks that are likely to experience a turnaround in 2016.

Ernst Glanzmann

Investment manager and head of Japan

SMC is a manufacturer of pneumatic equipment and actuators used for factory automation.

The share price underperformed in 2015 due to concerns over China and a slowdown in smartphone production/sales in 2015.

However, 65% of SMC’s total sales are in developed countries, where the company has a steadily growing market share.

In addition, the slowdown in China seems to be priced in to the share price, and the price should react on positive news, such as industry consolidation and more capacity reduction led by the government.

John Lambert

Investment manager, global and UK equity strategies

Pearson sold off significantly during the final quarter of 2015, following company comments that the second half of the year would be weaker than expected.

While this was disappointing, we believe there is still a strong case to be made that Pearson is a global leader in education technology, and that recent poor performance can and will be rectified.

The role of technology in education will continue to rise, and so long as educational outcomes in many developed markets remain below expectations (notably the US), then demand for Pearson’s core offering should remain structurally intact.

With further investment and some strategic repositioning, the company can begin to grow again and as a result regain a higher valuation multiple.

Recent disposals have been very timely in this regard, with the company selling the FT Group and also its stake in the Economist and, on a proforma basis, thus eliminating most of its net debt.

Mark Hawtin

Investment director, technology strategies

We think 2016 is a good time to look at Intel again.

The company has suffered in the past with the ‘leaky bucket’ of declining PC sales, however, there are signs that this will slow in 2016 or may even flatten out.

One of the core themes of its recent analyst day was that growth in the Data Centre Group (cloud) and internet of things/mobility business will compensate for the slowing PC business.

With relatively cheap valuation levels (14x) and a dividend yield of almost 3%, it is easy to see how Intel, like Microsoft, can become part of the basket of investments to hold for the developing cloud story.

Gianmarco Mondani

Investment director, non-directional equity team

EasyJet has underperformed the market on fear that low oil prices and growing capacity will mean greater competition and erode its margins.

It trades relatively cheaply on 10 times forward earnings and has solid margins, strong balance sheet and plenty of opportunity (like Ryanair) to gain more market share and beat consensus expectations.

Oliver Maslowski

Portfolio Manager, European equities

One high conviction stock for 2016 is Bayer.

The company underperformed the DAX and its peer group year-to-date as investors remain sceptical regarding the potential of its pharmaceutical product sales and its crop protection exposure, given the slump in commodity prices and its difficult chemicals division IPO (Covestro).

Strong third-quarter results, solid earnings growth, a 10% valuation discount to EU pharma peers and modest market expectations are a good setting for potential outperformance in 2016.

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