Aktienmärkte: Einschätzung zur wirtschaftlichen Branchenentwicklung

Im folgendem Text stellte der Exportversicherer COFACE Prognosen zur weltwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung von Branchen dar. Diese Informationen geben wertvolle Hinweise für Entscheidungen hinsichtlich der Branchendiversifikation von Aktienportefeuilles. Angesichts der derzeitigen Entwicklung der Aktienmärkte gibt diese Analyse von COFCE auch wertvolle Hinweise für die Kaufentscheidung von Aktien.

Sectoral outlook

Results for the last few months were not very bright with the SARS epidemic and the erratic dollar/euro-parity trend compounding existing problems of sagging consumption, lack of an investment recovery, high energy prices, and the terrorist threat.

Although the SARS epidemic now appears under control, the sectoral outlook has remained dependant on confirmation of renewed growth in the United States and a significant oil price decline. In Europe, many economic sectors should continue to suffer from sluggish domestic demand compounded by the loss of competitiveness resulting from the euro's appreciation. Pressure on company margins should thus remain intense.

  • The chemical, paper, and steel industries, which had been undergoing a shaky cyclical upturn, are now confronted with fluctuations in the euro/dollar parity.
  • Lack of a recovery in industrial activity and existence of substantial unused capacity are still affecting the mechanical engineering and telecommunicationsequipment sectors.
  • Although SARS has been an additional shock for tourism and air transport, the epidemic's impact should continue to wane.
  • Without increased promotional offers and low interest rates, sagging household confidence would be affecting the outlook for the car industry, mass distribution, and textiles even more. That loss of confidence has been having a more moderate effect on the construction sector.
  • Conversely, the combined effect of obsolescence and innovation has spurred a moderate upturn in electronics and computers.
  • Pharmaceuticals have continued to benefit from generally buoyant conditions despite increasing pressure on margins.

The chemical, paper, and steel industries, where the cyclical upturn was already shaky, are now confronted with fluctuations in the euro/dollar parity.

Chemicals

In Europe, the slight recovery apparent since last year has not been gaining momentum. The initial price improvement recorded early this year now appears stalled. The lack of recovery in industrial activity, due notably to sluggish investment along with sagging consumption and exports, has not permitted demand to strengthen or prices to rise. Flat sales prices and continuing high naphtha prices have been squeezing petrochemical margins. Mineral chemicals have been faring relatively better.

In the United States, the situation has improved slightly since end-2002. Despite reduced competition from European exports, however, conditions have remained difficult lacking a clear demand upturn.

Paper

The European paper industry has continued to suffer from the absence of a tangible economic recovery. It has notably been contending with the persistent downward trend of the advertising market.

Increased sales volumes in recent months have not offset the price decline resulting from capacity utilisation rates that have remained at modest levels. Moreover, the price increases for energy, mineral chemical additives, wood pulp, and used paper registered several months ago have also affected margins since the industry cannot easily pass those increases on to sales prices. Non-integrated papermakers have evidently been suffering more than wood pulp producers. Hopefully, however, rising raw material prices will constitute, as in the past, a harbinger of the sector's imminent recovery. As such, the outlook has remained moderately bright.

In the United States, the situation has been progressively improving for about a year with rising prices and volumes and a timid recovery of the advertising market. European and Canadian competition has weakened due to the US dollar's decline.

Steel

In the United States, the upsurge of flat steel prices early last year has petered out. It rested essentially on the artificially induced scarcity and high cost of supply resulting from adoption of protectionist measures by American authorities and not on real demand growth. Increasing trade dispensations and the downward demand trend from the car, aviation, and mechanical engineering industries has quickly wiped out some of the price gains. The dull car sales outlook and lack of an investment upturn have been undermining hopes for a rapid recovery. However, the nonetheless higher price levels have permitted steelmakers to improve profitability while spurring mergers and acquisitions.

Through international trade, the American price increases spread to the European and Asian markets.

On the Asian market, the price increases have not slipped back and have been currently stabilising at a high level. That is attributable to the sharp rise of Chinese and Korean demand, which rapidly increasing local production has been unable to satisfy.

In Europe, the price rise, with the exception of hot laminated steel coils, was much more moderate and has now stabilised. Price steadiness will depend on the durability of strong Asian demand and the trend of dollar/euro parity.

Lack of an industrial activity recovery and existence of substantial unused capacity are still affecting the mechanical engineering and telecommunications equipment sectors.

Mechanical engineering

After the downturn endured last year by European and American manufacturers, activity has levelled off with productive industrial investment no longer declining on local markets and orders from Asia remaining buoyant. Although machine tools have continued trending down, equipment for the food industry has continued to perform well. The euro's trend against other currencies will determine European export performance, at least on standardised equipment.

Telecommunications equipment

Those equipment manufacturers, whose activity is largely focused on telecommunications operators alone, are still handicapped by the surplus of installed optical fibre capacity, lagging 3G implementation, and decline of investment by operators in the United States and Europe.

Gains made by high speed internet connections on traditional markets and the upsurge of mobile telephony in emerging regions have not been enough to re-energise their activity, which should shed another 10% this year. The many restructuring and delocalisation programmes already implemented (standardised production outsourcing, cost reduction, asset sell-offs) should nonetheless permit most industrialists to cope with a market that has remained sluggish. Only mobile-telephony terminal manufacturers have been faring well with improved sales (up 12% in 2003 after rising 6% in 2002). They have been benefiting not only from the availability of new functionalities like colour screens or integrated cameras but also from the Asian market's strong growth.

The outlook for equipment manufacturers will depend on the operator situation.

Incumbent European and American telecommunications operators seem to have weathered the crisis without too much damage. Their solid foundations have permitted them to cope with the substantial debt burden assumed in purchasing 3G licences and increasing bandwidth capacity. They have undergone restructuring and refocused on their core businesses and regional markets. Alternative operators have either disappeared or been absorbed.

Amid economic recession and debt service burdens exacerbated by devaluations, South American operators have remained mired in a difficult situation.

In South Asia, Africa, the Near and Middle East and in the Community of Independent States, mobile telephony's very rapid development has been benefiting local operators, which also enjoy very low equipment prices and tips from their industry colleagues in industrialized countries.

In East Asia, local operators and equipment manufacturers have been benefiting from the market's strong growth and consumer enthusiasm for novelties. It is the world region where mobile telephony and high-speed Internet access have been developing fastest.

Although SARS has been an additional shock for tourism and air transport, the epidemic's impact should continue to wane.

Tourism and transport

With open war ending in Iraq, a new crisis — the SARS epidemic — shook the sector.

Tourism in Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Ontario (Canada) suffered the most damage. Beyond that specific regional impact, however, the entire sector saw its recovery postponed. Still affected by fears of terrorism, high energy prices, and the economic downturn in Europe and the United States, that industry, notably commercial aviation, certainly did not need this new shock. The immediate impact has been a growing trend toward last-minute reservations and regionalization of travel. Companies have remained very cautious on travel spending. In such conditions, many companies in the sector have become weaker. Only actors working essentially on a local and regional basis in niche markets like sports, cultural, or adventure tourism or the new low-cost transporters have fared well.

Without the increased promotional offers and low interest rates, sagging household confidence would be affecting the outlook for the car industry, mass distribution, and textiles even more. That loss of confidence has been having a more moderate effect on the construction sector.

Car industry

In the United States, passenger car production and sales have been trending down but from a high starting point. Business activity has thus remained at satisfactory levels.

As carmakers continue to inundate consumers with promotional offers intended to stem the market decline, fend off Asian competition and reduce stocks, they have been squeezing further an already shaky profitability. Parts-makers have been suffering indirectly from their clients' shrinking margins.

In Europe, the sales decline that started in 2002 has persisted at a sustained pace. Like their American counterparts, carmakers have begun to offer discounts that affect their profitability, which has nonetheless remained satisfactory. Commercial vehicle sales have also been trending down. Parts-makers have been suffering from repercussions of carmaker difficulties.

In Latin America, subsidiaries of the world's large carmakers have continued to suffer from the local market's failure to recover. Except FIAT, whose vehicles have a very high local integration rate, they all have been contending with losses attributable to the increased cost of imported parts caused by the devaluations. Although certainly suffering from the decline of both local production and the parts/accessories market, local parts-makers should quickly benefit from the increasing integration of local production.

In Asia, sales should stagnate this year with production declining. The SARS epidemic should affect growth of the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Thai markets while sales in Korea and Japan stagnate at best. Exports to Europe and America will suffer from the decline of those markets despite market share gains.

Mass distribution

American retail business improved over the spring and summer months. During the preceding months, household consumption sagged amid surging energy prices, the deteriorating international geopolitical situation, and bad weather.

In Europe, the household consumption slowdown has affected retailers. However, the situation is far from uniform in every country and sales sector with consumption holding up better in France, the United Kingdom, and Spain than elsewhere.

In France, Paris department stores have nonetheless been suffering from the effects of sagging world tourism and disgruntled American tourists. Conversely, outlying stores focusing on food have been faring better. In Germany, the sector has continued to suffer from still sluggish consumption and tough competition from hard discount.

Textiles and clothing

Despite a slight increase in finished product deliveries registered early this year, the West European and North American clothing textiles industry has been suffering greatly from Asian competition, which has been benefiting, furthermore, from the dollar depreciation against the euro. Besides clothing, spinning, throwing/texturing of synthetic or artificial filament yarns, and weaving have also been suffering with better quality thread and fabric now available to the Asian clothing industry locally. Company failures in these industry segments have thus been increasing, notably in France.

Mass distribution's influence has also been contributing to the sector's difficulties with large retailers seeking to maximize profits where it is easiest to do so ? in non-food ? particularly clothing. They thus never hesitate to focus their purchasing on less costly sources. The sector is nonetheless not completely defenceless. It can organise the inevitable delocalisation of standardised production instead of submitting to it while keeping control of key functions like innovation, creation and marketing.

Meanwhile, with complete elimination of trade barriers looming in 2005, North American and European public officials have been working on setting up pan-American and Euro-Mediterranean free trade areas to capitalize on the complementarity and proximity of member countries. Those areas are better equipped than Asia to meet reactivity and speed imperatives. Moreover, outside the very constraints of markets, some companies enjoy special competitive advantages like a high-end presence or a specialisation in technical products.

Construction

The sector is very dependent on local economic conditions.

In the United States, construction of single family dwellings has sustained a high level of activity in terms of price and volume due notably to the decline of mortgage rates. However, a slight decline could develop toward year-end with rising mortgage rates. Conversely, industrial and commercial construction has continued to suffer from high vacancy Nonetheless, relative improvement has apparently developed, notably in the leisure and hotel segments. Finally, public works have begun to suffer from the fiscal difficulties of states and local communities.

In Europe, industrial construction (factories, warehouses) and commercial construction (offices, hotels, stores) have been generally trending down due to the pervasive economic gloom and glut of available space. Although residential construction activity has remained high (except in Germany), a downturn could develop soon as has already happened in the Netherlands. The Spanish and British markets are the most exposed on that score due to high household debt and property prices.

In Japan, public works have continued to suffer from the fiscal difficulties of public administrations while residential construction has virtually stopped declining and commercial construction has started to recover.

Conversely, the combined effect of obsolescence and innovation has spurred a moderate upturn in electronics and computers.

Electronics/computers

After virtually stagnating last year, electronic components have currently been experiencing a moderate upturn (up about 10% expected this year). The improvement would be even greater without the impact of SARS on Asian economies and its repercussions on the local electronics industry.

Sales growth has been particularly strong (over 20%) for opto-electronics (used in telecommunication), flash memories (used not only in telecommunications but also in digital photography), and digital signal processors (telecommunications, computers, and automobiles).

The other component types, except DRAM memories, which have yet to recover, have been registering moderate growth (about 8%).

That improvement is particularly attributable to increased deliveries of servers and office computers, and portables driven by both necessary renewal of company equipment and development of the Internet for home use and by recovery of mobile telephony sales.

Meanwhile, with the European and American markets hardly growing, rising Asian demand has been underpinning the current recovery.

Pharmaceuticals have continued to benefit from a generally buoyant environment despite increasing pressure on margins.

Pharmaceuticals

Despite pressure exerted by health systems to reduce their spending and the sluggish economic conditions, world sales of pharmaceutical products have continued to post gains. However, rising research and development costs, a dearth of new drugs, increasing competition from generics, and development of litigation are posing challenges to the laboratories, which have yet to fully digest the mergers and acquisitions activity of recent years.

Particularly marked in Europe, sales growth has been very weak in Japan with the South American market continuing to sag.

The North American market, which has been outperforming, had a bout of weakness in 2001 and 2002 that resulted in a billings decline.

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