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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MFS Serves Lunch with a Side of Equities

Reported by Chris Cumming

Hungry reporters -- especially those needing reassurance about equities as a class -- would have done well to attend MFS Investment Management's [profile] year-end investment outlook this afternoon at the Le Parker Meridien hotel in midtown Manhattan.

About thirty journalists attended. Between bites of roast chicken and polenta, they heard what was in in sum a cautiously upbeat view of the world economy and mutual fund investing from MFS president & CIO Michael Roberge, chief investment strategist James Swanson, and Linda Zhang, PM of the multi-asset investment group.

Swanson began the event with a review of global investment risks, which was the most downbeat, or rather the most cautiously optimistic, of the three presentations. Swanson's summary of global financial danger zones ranged from Washington (where he foresaw a "Lehman-style recession" if lawmakers let us go over the fiscal cliff) to the Strait of Hormuz (which Swanson said keeps him up at night; 20 percent of the world's oil passes through it).

Roberge, by contrast, was more sanguine, claiming that investors have been far too cautious since 2008. He said the situation reminded him of when, in the late 1990s, he used to tell equity investors to get into bonds, only in reverse.

"People are essentially investing for the smallest possibility out in the tail," said Roberge.

And as for Swanson's catalog of risks, Roberge sees them playing out as follows: there will be a budget deal soon; no hard landing for China; Germany will realize it has more to lose from a Euro breakup than a bailout; and domestically, housing and energy will push the economy forward. So, in short, put your clients in equities.

"You have to go back to the 1950s to see a time when equities were as attractive an asset class as they are now," he said.

This theme was seconded by Zhang, who said that MFS was attempting to embrace"the opportunities afforded by the financial crisis and its fallout.

"The financial crisis has created unprecedented value misplacements across asset classes," she said, pointing to good opportunities in, you guessed it, equities, while noting that fixed-income as a class is at its highest valuation since 1871.  

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