Buy European Banks
Some of the global equity market’s worst performers for the year are bank stocks, especially in Europe. The largest, best-managed European lenders trade at record low valuations — yet their balance sheets are strong enough to absorb all but the most draconian of economic outcomes.
Investors have abandoned these stocks, in part because the banks have suspended dividends and share buybacks during the pandemic at the request of regulators — yet many of the companies are likely to again pay dividends next year. That resumption, along with a revival in buybacks, should reward shareholders for their patience.
European regulators are finally facilitating mergers between banks and encouraging them to become more profitable through consolidation. In September, two large Spanish banks announced they will combine to form the country’s largest lender.
What’s more, bank stocks can outperform even when interest rates are low. Between 2009 and 2015 — a period of particularly low rates in the U.S. — shares of U.S. lenders outperformed the S&P 500 index by more than 55%.
The average European bank trades at a miserly 40% of tangible book value. With a potential economic recovery, they should trade at 80% — that would mean a doubling in the share price, with room still for further increases.