Looking for a Pullback Play? Try Going Global
When that long-awaited U.S. stock dip finally materializes, the best hiding place may prove to be underperforming global markets.
American-focused companies and indexes have stood tall above the investing world, offering a 9 percent first-quarter return in the Standard & Poor's 500 and sold profits elsewhere.
By comparison, many of its chief global competitors, outside of Japan, have come up short of U.S.-centric results.
But with the rally looking tired, now could be the time to go global.
(Read More: Fear, Reality, and Your Portfolio: Yoshikami)
Here, then, are three ideas for coping with a correction:
1. Buy the Japanese banks
Thanks to accommodative Federal Reserve policy, the U.S. banks have been the leader of the U.S. equity rally.
So with American financials cooling over the past month or so, the best play may be a similar central bank focus but with a Japanese flavor.
(Read More: Japan's QE Will Work Better Than US: Stiglitz )
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has directed aggressive easing policies that have helped push the broader market to a parabolic 48 percent rise since November. In fact, strategists at Bank of America say Abe's name should be an acronym for "Asset Bubble Economics."
"Japanese assets are being deliberately reflated by the authorities, Japan is one of the few regions that unambiguously benefits from inflation and we believe that reflation or inflation is bullish for Japanese financials," the firm said in a report for clients.
2. Dips in U.S., and in Germany, Too!
With the U.S. pullback perpetually in the balance, many strategists suggest investors give the market a 3 percent to 5 percent cushion and then finding an entry point.
The same could go for some of the top European equity performers, Germany foremost among them, where equity markets could be volatile as the euro zone battles its way out of a pernicious and persistent debt crisis.
The German DAX exchange has barely managed gains for the year, but BofA Merrill has a target price that reflects a nearly 10 percent jump from here.
"Global investors who need European exposure but want to limit exposure to periphery risks should buy German equities," the firm said. "The DAX has global cyclical exposure."
3. A Way to Play the BRICs
Once the leaders of the emerging world, the so-called BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China — have lost their luster.
But that doesn't mean investors looking for exposure to the group have to stay away completely.
BofA Merrill has found one area in the space that appears to be undervalued: Resources, which may have become oversold since the growth slowdown among the nations.
(Read More: Worried About US? Hey, It Sure Beats Other Places)
"A stronger dollar, anemic commodity prices and overcrowded positions do not augur well for (emerging market) equities, in our view," the firm said. "We think contrarians should therefore consider relative value plays within emerging markets as opposed to outright directional calls."
The idea is to pair resource stocks against the EEM exchange-traded fund, which stands for the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets index. The ETF is off more than 8 percent this year and acts as a broad counterweight against the specific materials play.
The upside for the materials sector, according to BofA Merrill, is that "BRIC resources stocks are now trading lower than their 2004 price relative lows and they have the cheapest relative valuation in 13 years."