Sunday, May 9, 2010

Small-cap investing opportunities according to Artio's Dedio

"Opportunities in Smallcap Investing" was the title of the presentation that Samuel Dedio, head of US equities for Artio Global Management, delivered to the 2010 annual conference of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts. The growth of options trading was his most interesting theme, in my opinion. By the way, if you don't recognize the name Artio Global Management, it was formerly Julius Baer. 

Where the opportunities lie 
Dedio identified opportunities in financials sector, including regional banks, online brokerage companies, and insurance. He figures that "industry consolidation and stimulus spending may potentially benefit this area." 

Industrials and materials stocks will benefit from emerging markets' demand. For example, Dedio likes silver, where supply is not keeping up with demand. Compared with gold, silver has many more industrial applications, yet it trades at a discount to gold.

In healthcare, Dedio likes companies that can help implement cost savings. This means companies in diagnostics, medical technology, pharmaceuticals, and home healthcare providers.

The survivors of the 2009 shakeout in retailers will benefit in 2010. "We expect margins (and earnings) to recover more rapidly than in prior cycles," wrote Dedio in the consumer discretionary section of his handout.

Finally, in technology, Dedio focused on the undervalued importance of semiconductors. 


Options: Why online brokerage may thrive 
Dedio particularly likes online brokerage companies with exposure to options trading as a play on demographics and rising interest in making money through options. 

"The younger generation eats it up," said Dedio, referring to options trading. This is apparently tied to younger investors growing up with computers and to educational efforts by companies such as Think or Swim.

"Don't 85% of options expire worthless?" asked an audience member. That's exactly what makes options a great business, according to Dedio. Investors have to buy more options on an ongoing basis. 

Dedio displayed a graph showing that total monthly equity option trading volume has more than doubled since the year 2000. Monthly trading volume, which was under 100 million until January 2004, has been  200 million--and sometimes exceeded 350 million--during the period January 2008 to September 2009.

Dedio's one concern about options trading is pricing pressure. However, cost cutters are at a disadvantage in the options arena, where education remains critical. Education requires more robust margins than cost cutters manage.
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