Why market tail shouldn’t wag economic dog

Economic data should theoretically drive markets. But in 2016, the opposite has been true and it could be a troubling cycle for investors, said Matthew Beesley, portfolio manager and head of global equities at Henderson Global Investors.

“Go back a month or so, economics were relatively decent across most geographies,” Beesley told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” on Wednesday. “But now markets are leading economics and driving economic decisions that are going to have very meaningful impacts [that] we fear on the corporate world in 2016.”

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Despite relatively strong economic data with the exception of China, global markets have suffered major sell-offs this year. In the past month, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average were each down about 7 percent as of Tuesday’s close.

Stocks in the euro zone, as measured by the Stoxx 600 index have fallen about 10 percent in the past month, and executives have been forced to adjust accordingly.

Beesley, who manages roughly $2 billion for Henderson, noted companies reining in investment spending, worrying about their top lines and providing cautious guidance for 2016.

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“What is going on in the banking system globally, not just in U.S. banks, is very worrying indeed,” he added. “If you were to get a very sharp move up in that sector, I think there would be a lot of investor pain there, a lot of short investors looking to cover those shorts.”

But overall, Beesley’s global equities team is steering clients toward Europe, mainly for valuations.

“In general U.S. valuations are still pricing in more growth in the broader sense relative to European valuations,” Beesley said, though he’s still invested in Facebook and Google-parent Alphabet, despite high valuations.

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Beesley said he also sees an opportunity in Asia markets, given negative investor perceptions and low valuations there.

“Asia, emerging markets and by extension Japan have been very much caught up in the maelstrom of this negative feedback loop that appears to be building across equity markets globally,” he said. “Looking for opportunity, that’s certainly where we as a team are going to be refocusing our efforts.”