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Looks Expensive - Quality Is.
by Peter Hargreaves

22 Mar 2021


During my 50 years of observing stock markets it has been noticeable that pundits have invariably been cautious of Wall Street. Today is an exception. U.K. investors are finally looking stateside.

The depressed British interest in American shares could be historic. During the middle of the last century there was an exchange control which acted to deter Dollar investment. The mechanism was the dollar premium which required a surcharge on the purchase of dollars. This made investment in America expensive and arguably prompted a British tradition of neglecting the analysis of US stocks. When I commenced full time in the investment industry in the 70s there were fewer than a handful of American funds available to U.K. investors. That legacy lingered even after the dollar premium was lifted.

But this doesn’t explain why many analysts have continued to conclude the American stock market is expensive today. Their suggested caution has frequently proved to be unreasonable over many years.

This culture has resulted in most U.K. investors being historically underweight American companies in their portfolios. It is true that American shares have usually looked more expensive than British ones, but this may be well justified. The American consumer market is six times bigger and the American economy nearly eight times bigger than Britain’s. American companies can therefore grow faster and probably warrant higher valuations – especially as many of them also compete and dominate within their industries on a global scale.

I was “Zooming” a couple of weeks ago with a long-standing investor who made an interesting point. He had been influenced by the ubiquitous prophets of doom about US stock markets and pointed out that he didn’t want a pure American fund which could only invest in the USA. Instead, he liked the idea of Blue Whale because he felt confident that Stephen Yiu would make a good call if the US market did start looking frothy. Very few investors can consistently  make purely calm detached decisions with their own money and I’m glad that Blue Whale is available to help them.

While pundits’ attitudes remain sceptical about valuations in American companies, I would venture that stock markets are no different than almost everything in life. Quality does cost more but is invariably worth it (as long as you do not over-pay ). The USA is arguably one of the best places to do business resulting in a more entrepreneurial economy and a culture that just breeds success. The US stock markets represent over 54% of the value of world stock markets (Statista Research Department : Dec 16th 2020). International investors and huge wealth funds have their greatest exposure in the USA.

I am pretty sure that almost all British investors will have substantially less than 50% of their portfolio in America. There is no argument that it is prudent for investors with Sterling liabilities to have the majority of their assets in Sterling assets. That is a policy of which we approve. We wouldn’t advocate holding 100% in American stocks. However, there has been an increase in globalisation and we should be less insular in our investment outlook. The one area of weakness in portfolios is probably too little in the US and Blue Whale aims to offer a way to address some of that imbalance – without overpaying.



Please note that the information provided in this article is not to be construed as advice and any views we express on holdings do not constitute investment recommendations and must not be viewed as such. If you are unsure as to the suitability of an investment for your circumstances, please seek independent financial advice. Investments can go down in value as well as up so you may get back less than you invested. Your capital is at risk. Past performance is not a guide to future performance.