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It's Too Early to Go Defensive, UBS Says as It Picks the Global Stocks to Buy Right Now

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UBS has released its latest stock picks for Europe with its strategists suggesting that it's too early to shift investment portfolios to a more defensive stance, despite worries over the direction of the global economy.

UBS presented a list of its "conviction" stock ideas in a research note where the investment bank's strategists see forthcoming earnings results as a catalyst for share price rises.

Strategists in UBS' European equity research department highlighted around 20 stocks from a variety of sectors, from luxury goods to utilities, with a detailed summary of their thoughts on the upcoming results for each company.

Noting that earnings momentum is "still a key driver in the market," the strategists believe that while "the pace of momentum may have peaked, we still see upside risk to earnings."

"With that in mind, we think it's too early to shift portfolios to a more defensive stance, both from the overall market perspective and also the strategy within the market. Many of these conviction ideas complement this strategy, pointing to the opportunity for consensus upgrades or improved outlook/guidance commentary," the strategists led by Nick Nelson, head of European equity strategy at UBS, said in the note published Tuesday.

Here's a selection of the top 20 stocks given a "buy" rating by UBS, along with their current share price (as of July 6) and UBS' price target:

  • Dutch payment company Adyen: Current share price 2,047 euros, UBS price target: 2,518 euros
  • Aerospace giant Airbus: Current price 109.9 euros, UBS price target: 125 euros
  • Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca: Current share price 8,661 pence, UBS price target: 9,200 pence
  • Finnish telecoms company Nokia: Current share price 4.6 euros, UBS price target: 5.2 euros
  • British home builder Barratt Developments: Current price 771.4 pence, UBS price target: 855.0 pence
  • Switzerland-based luxury goods group Richemont: Current price 111.9 Swiss francs, UBS price target: 143.0 Swiss francs
  • German telecoms firm Deutsche Telekom: Current price 17.9 euros, UBS price target: 24.0 euros
  • British drinks giant Diageo: Current price 3,495 pence, UBS price target: 3,800 pence
  • Italian energy company Enel: Current price 7.8 euros, UBS price target: 10.0 euros

The outlook for inflation, monetary policy and bond yields has divided investors, leading to differing opinions on when's the right time to buy cyclical or defensive stocks.

Defensive stocks are seen as those that provide a consistent dividend and stable returns regardless of the state of the wider stock market or economy, such as health care and consumer staples.

On the opposite side there are cyclical stocks whose performance generally follows the economic cycle of expansion and recession. They tend to be more volatile as a result but can also reward investors with higher gains. Sectors such as finance, energy and industrial are considered cyclical.

UBS analysts had noted in a separate research note on Monday that banks and energy stocks were among the worst performers in a period of defensive outperformance over the past week (ending July 2).

"European Defensives outperformed Cyclicals by circa 0.5% over the past week," the note said Monday.

"The best performing sectors were Tech Hardware, Paper and Food Retail at +2.7%, +1.9%, +1.4%, respectively. The laggards were largely 'Value sectors'; Construction Materials at -3.1%, Banks at -2.3% and Energy at -1.9% were the worst performers."

UBS is not alone in recommending that investors turn away from more defensive stocks. JPMorgan analysts said in a note at the end of June that the "bounce in a number of Defensives in the past 2-4 months, such as in Staples, Real Estate and Healthcare, should be faded."

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