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Direct Domestic Shares, Economic Update

Stock selection the key to 2015 domestic shares

The Australian economy is facing some challenging times in the coming year due to the end of the commodities boom, but good investment opportunities will still present themselves in other areas, according to a global fund manager.

“Our outlook for the Australian economy has been more downbeat than the consensus for some time and we expect the Reserve Bank of Australia to lower the cash rate during 2015. Corporate Australia, however, is in good shape, with balance sheets and cash flows generally strong, providing scope to build attractively valued portfolios,” AllianceBernstein Australian value equities chief investment officer Roy Maslen said.

Given that assessment, Maslen explained the best investment opportunities would not come from sector bets over the next 12 months, but instead from carefully selected stocks in businesses with multiple operations, some of which were currently doing well and others that were not at peak performance but had turnaround potential.

“On these criteria we see opportunities in the building materials, airlines and finance sectors,” he said.

“To maintain exposure to equities, while limiting potential market drawdowns, we see opportunities in infrastructure, REITs (real estate investment trusts) and healthcare stocks that offer price stability, quality earnings, quality balance sheets and reasonable valuations.”

He pointed out AllianceBernstein’s research showed complementing Australian equities holdings with investments in overseas markets could help smooth risk attributes that may result from the concentrated nature of the domestic investment landscape.

In regard to offshore stocks, the investment manager recommended looking to Asia for contrarian opportunities in 2015.

Specifically, AllianceBernstein Pacific Basin equities chief investment officer Stuart Rae said a focus on value opportunities in China and cyclical stocks in India would generate the best results.

At the same time, Rae said South-East Asian markets were ones to avoid as valuations had become too high due to a preference for defensive stocks in the region.

“The skew in valuations caused by this flight to safety has created a contrarian buying opportunity in cyclical stocks and north Asian markets,” he said.

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