Left to right: Jessica Bemer, Jitania Kandhari and Anne Lester.

The percentage of U.S. mutual fund managers who are women is 9.4%, according to Morningstar.

The Raymond James Women’s Symposium offered what it called a “rare treat” when it welcomed three female portfolio managers to the stage. This was also the symposium’s first portfolio management panel in its 23-year history.

Jessica Bemer is a portfolio manager at Snow Capital, where she manages the Snow Capital Investment Partners L.P. Private Fund, the Snow Capital Opportunity Fund and the Large Cap Value strategy.

Bemer was joined by Jitania Kandhari, head of the global macroeconomic research at Morgan Stanley Asset Management and the co-PM on the emerging market breakout nations strategy; and Anne Lester, multi-asset solutions portfolio manager and head of retirement solutions for global asset management solutions at JP Morgan Asset Management.

Each took turns giving a brief investment outlook and describing where they currently see opportunities in the market.

Jessica Bemer

Bemer’s firm, Snow Capital, is a contrarian value manager.

“We look for those investments that are typically beat up for some specific reason,” she told the crowd. “So companies that are struggling, whether it’s something intrinsic to the company or market-oriented.”

Because out of a universe of 3,000 to 5,000 stocks Bemer needs only 40 to 50, she said she’s really focused on those areas that are really beat up in the last 12 months.

“We’ve had lots of opportunity in the energy space,” she said. “Those are starting to play out right now, but there’s still plenty of opportunity in energy, especially natural gas. Natural gas stocks are pretty intereting at this point.”

She’s also seen a huge shakeup in the consumer discretionary space, specifically in retail and department stores.

“Some of that is interesting but some of it is risky so we’re trying to navigate that very carefully,” she added.

Bemer also said that interest rates will “probably be some type of catalyst” in the next six months across the equity market.

“And so we’re looking for ways to capitalize on the changes in interest rates,” she added.

Jitania Kandhari

Kandhari thinks the U.S. is in the final innings of the bull market.

“Our view is that the dollar is peaking. U.S. valuations are peaking. U.S. margins are peaking,” she said. “So we are looking for opportunities … outside the U.S.”

Meanwhile, Europe has gone through two recessions in the last five years. Kandhari said this “very rarely happens so there is huge pent-up potential in Europe.”

Kandhari and her team also like Germany, which she said “has always been the manufacturing star of the region.” They also like the Scandanavian economy, which Kandhari said is much stronger because it went through a crisis in the 1990s.

On the other hand, Kanhari said she does not like the commodity economies, like Australia and Canada.

She also said she does like emerging markets “a lot,” adding that emerging market currencies are very cheap.

Anne Lester

Lester’s interest in U.S. equities has also been waning slightly.

“We are still very overweight equities versus fixed income,” she told the crowd. “We have been reducing our overweight in the U.S. equity markets. So we’re still overweight but relatively less than we were a year ago.”

According to Lester, they have been adding to every other equity market around the world with the exception of the U.K.

“So we are now high in, broadly speaking, emerging markets; we are high in Europe, we are high in Asia, we are high in Japan,” Lester said. “And we think we are seeing for the first time since the global financial crisis, really synchronized global growth.”

She added that they’re taking some of their money off the table in the U.S. because valuations are rich.

“The U.S. is much farther in the cycle than anybody else is but we don’t think we’re anywhere near the warning signs that tell us that it’s time to step back,” she added.

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