Europe needs swagger

Europe stocks that can add 'swagger' to a portfolio

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It's hard to deny the fact that European businesses have some staying power.

After the global financial earthquake of 2008, the continent has dealt with a sovereign debt crisis, endless bailout negotiations, a fall in commodity prices, deflation and now a scandal involving the auto industry.

Yet, European stocks just keep edging higher, helped along by bond-buying from the European Central Bank. Better still, they're continuing to look relatively cheap, according to several analysts, who have highlighted some of the continent's "must have" equity holdings.


Formerly known as Reed Elsevier, the Anglo-Dutch information and analytics publisher is a favorite of Ashok Shah, director of asset management company London & Capital. Listed on the FTSE 100 its share price has more than doubled since 2011 and has more room to run, according to the strategist.

"(It has a) strong market position within the scholar research and event organization niches," he said via email. It's also taking advantage of the burgeoning Big Data industry and is trading at an "attractive" discount compared to its peers, Shah added.

Royal Dutch Shell

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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An oil major and one of Europe's heavyweights. With its proposed acquisition of BG Group, as well other strategies, Shell has been coping well with the oil price shock, according to Neil Dwane, chief investment officer for equities for Europe at Allianz Global Investors.

"Royal Dutch Shell looks well positioned, currently yielding 7 percent," he said via email.

"New management is managing investments based on the current oil price, so no 'hopeful' investment is being made. Investors are now very 'underweight' the sector and the company offers a geopolitical hedge to a worsening war in the Middle East."

Capital expenditure is four times the current dividend, Dwane explained, meaning it has an ample buffer before it has to start disappointing shareholders.

Eastern Europe?

Societe Generale is looking a little further afield. Roland Kaloyan and a team of equity strategists declared in a note last week that "now is the time to buy emerging Europe," recommending buying beaten-down stocks that had exposure to Russia. Added to that, the strategists picked out Austrian stocks with their economic and financial links with Eastern Europe.

Among the names highlighted included Renault, Raiffeisen Bank, Alstom and Henkel. All of which had a "buy" rating with the analysts at the French bank.

Some macro tips

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Aside from the stock-pickers, a range of economists and strategists have been feeling upbeat on European benchmarks this year.

Bob Parker, senior adviser at Credit Suisse, told CNBC via email that investors should gain exposure to those companies that can benefit from the devaluation of the euro, the lower input costs from weak commodity prices and the modest improvement in consumer spending.

Paul Gambles, managing partner at MBMG International, meanwhile believes that inflated prices means that there are not too many bargains in heavily capitalized stocks.

Instead, he favors mid-caps, he told CNBC, adding that he would be willing to buy stocks on the Russian MICEX at opportune times in the near future.

Disclosures: Ashok Shah has no personal holdings of RELX, but shares are held within London Capital Group's managed funds and by its clients. Neil Dwane has personal holdings of the shares of Royal of Dutch Shell and so do the clients of Allianz Global Investors.