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Stick With US-Focused Stocks: Strategists

Sunday, 23 Sep 2012 | 6:27 AM ET

Earnings season is just around the corner, and the market has already seen profit warnings from multinationals like FedEx and Intel. Norfolk Southern, which transports coal and other goods around the country, also warned.

With the global economy slowing and the U.S. dollar strengthening it may now be time to invest in companies more tied to the U.S. economy, some market pros are saying. (Read More:FedEx Says Economy Is Worsening, Cuts Outlook.)

Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Advisors, told CNBC, the multinationals that were everyone’s favorite stocks from six or 12 months ago are the ones disappointing today because “the dollar has appreciated and global growth is slowing.”

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He added, “That international exposure is coming back to haunt all these companies that were out telling everybody that that was their avenue of growth.” (Read More:The Best Countries for Long-Term Growth.)

Better to stick with U.S. focused companies, Bernstein advised. “I don’t think the mainstream realizes yet that the rest of the world is in much worse shape than we are," he said. "Corporate profits in the rest of the world are abysmal compared with the U.S.”

Other investment professionals also opportunities in U.S. equities. Jim McCaughan, CEO of Principal Global Investors, told CNBC that "the fundamentals of U.S. business, innovation, technology, and improving productivity, are enough to justify most of the returns this year."

The S&P 500 index is up more than 15 percent year-to-date.

Barry Knapp, head of equity strategy at Barclays, also advocates avoiding those sectors tiedto the global economy. “I would not touch anything having to do with global growth. Industrials, materials just don't make sense,” he said.

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Industrials are still a longer-term secular story, Knapp noted. “The U.S. has gone through 25 years of wage disinflation, all in productivity, transportation-cost adjusted basis. It makes sense to bring manufacturing back to this country."

"There's been a long-term uptrend in margins for the sector," he added. Knapp said the big institutional investors he talks to buy into the whole industrial renaissance in the U.S., “but let's face it, the cyclical recovery in the sector was driven by emerging markets where all of the operating leverage came from,” he said. “The top-line revenue growth isn’t there anymore.” (Read More:China's a 'Roach Motel'; Don't Trust the Numbers: Chanos.)

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With China and other emerging markets slowing, “there's no cyclical story for the sector unless you believe the U.S. is going to somehow miraculously turn around,” Knapp said.

Knapp is wary of technology. “The core of tech, enterprise spending is very, very weak,” he said. “We thought capital spending would be weak this year because of the election… it's weaker than we thought. So the Ciscos and IBMsare a dicey proposition because their core business is soft."

But other investors still see opportunities in the space. Chris Hyzy who helps to oversee $334 billion in assets under managementat U.S. Trust said in a CNBC interview “there are pockets of real growth in the technology sector,” citing themes in the cloud computing area, mobile payments areas, software and cybersecurity.

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Oracle is one large-cap tech some strategists suggest considering.Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Markets, said the software giant sits in the sweet spot of middleware and software. (Read More:Oracle Meets Earnings Forecast, but Revenue Is Light.)

The shares are also cheap. “When you back out the amount of cash they have on the balance sheet, you are looking at a multiple of only nine times,” Hogan said. “Obviously a reasonable multiple when the S&P is trading at 14 times.”

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