Dawn of the 'Crexit,' but You May Already Have Missed Out
Investors are turning optimistic on stocks, with inflows into equity funds hitting a five-year high as Deutsche Bank suggests 2013 could spell the "dawn of the post-crisis era."
European shares rallied to 22-month highs last week, matched by similar gains across the globe as risk on activity kicked off the new year. Last week, the VIX — which shows the market's expectation of 30-day volatility — fell to 13.22, the lowest intraday level since June 2007, before closing at 13.36. But have investors been too slow to make returns after a strong rally last year?
"I think right now people are understanding that low rates are going to be with us for a long time. It's the TINA factor. There is no alternative really," Jason Trennert, managing partner at Strategas Research, told CNBC Monday. He nevertheless foresees a "bumpy ride" for equities and a decline in the first quarter.
Michael Heise, chief economist at Allianz SE, on Monday referred to the exit from the crisis as a "Crexit" in a piece for the Financial Times, mirroring predictions of a Greek exit from the European Union known as a "Grexit."
(Read More: Forget Grexit – What About a Brixit?)
Analysts have widely predicted a move from fixed income back into equities. Hans Mikkelsen, credit strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch declared 2013 would be an "inflection year", whilst a recent note by Deutsche Bank was optimistic about 2013 being "the dawn of the post-crisis era".
"Despite a strong rally in 2012, equities remain good value, and a decline in macro risk should enable them to re-rate to higher multiples," David Folkerts-Landau, chief economist at Deutsche Bank said.
(Read More: Danger in Safety? The Risks in Core Europe's Bonds)
And as Folkerts-Landau points out, these inflows in equities come on the back of a strong rally in 2012. The Athens Composite Index emerged as the biggest gainer with a 33 percent rise last year. Germany's DAX Index showed gains of 28 percent and France's CAC 40 wasn't far behind.
"Retail investors haven't missed out on a rally just yet," Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at ETX Capital told CNBC.com.
There's still upside, especially for the FTSE 100, which only saw gains of 6 percent, according to Siddiqi.
"The index is already at levels we haven't seen since May 2008, a sign that investors, retail and institutional see opportunity," he said.
Will Hedden, a client manager at IG Markets, agrees the U.K.'s FTSE index that stands out as having the most headroom.
"The FTSE has massively underperformed the Dax over the last year so there is still room for a move, especially if China's data flow stays encouraging," he told CNBC.com.
(Read More: Stocks Are the New Bonds: Goldman Sachs)
Siddiqi also points to Spain's IBEX 35 and Italy's FTSE MIB, both of which ended up in negative territory last year, as having the potential for attractive returns but adds that they are still "risky plays."
"But with now a Spanish bailout off the cards this quarter and increased likelihood that Italy will remain on the path of austerity with a pro- euro zone economy to be elected, the risk-reward profile for stocks in both countries is far more favorable than before," he said. "Retail investors can still make profitable trades, but may have to be a little more prudent this year, at least in the first half of it."