Daily Money Tip: Searching for value in stock prices

Posted: March 27, 2014

The stock market has been hitting record highs - again - but which sectors are overpriced and which still represent opportunity?

We checked in with Chris Millard, investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Philadelphia. Overall, he is advising clients that "equities are not cheap anymore, they're probably at fair value. But some sectors are more overvalued and some are still undervalued."

Among those overvalued sectors are real estate investment trusts (REITs) and utilities, Millard said, as well as conservative stocks with high dividend yields.

"Those worked well over the past year or two," he said. "Now it's time to look at other opportunities."

Durable goods spending as a percentage of gross domestic product is still near all-time lows, but with improving corporate and consumer confidence, "we will continue to see an uptick in spending this year," Millard notes. Sectors that stand to benefit include autos, housing, the information technology services, semiconductors and tech software sectors, construction and machinery, and electrical equipment.

U.S. health-care reform and other global trends stand to benefit these sectors, he added, including the still-high population of uninsured Americans. Meanwhile, health-care companies hold the second-largest cash balances of those in the benchmark S&P 500 index.

Small-cap stocks are overstretched.

"Small caps are now a bit more expensive than large caps, and historically, small caps tend to underperform [after that happens]," Millard added.

In fixed income, J.P. Morgan Private Bank is advising clients to reduce holdings in so-called junk or high-yield bond holdings, saying the run in that market is coming to an end.

Junk-bond mutual funds and exchange-traded funds we've highlighted before include SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (symbol: JNK); SPDR Barclays Short Term High Yield Bond ETF (SJNK); and iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG).

High-yield bonds correlate strongly with the stock market, and with worries that equities may be reaching toppy levels, J.P. Morgan Private Bank is advising taking profits in high yield.

With some exceptions, "Overall, we've been moving out of high-yield positions, as they've gotten more expensive," Millard concluded. "You've seen great returns in high yield since 2009."

But with the benchmark high-yield index yielding just 5.5 percent, before taxes, "I'd rather put the money to work elsewhere," he added.



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