By Sinead Carew
(Reuters) - Even though a steady stream of money has flowed out of U.S. stocks into overseas markets, investors expect European and emerging market equities to rise further, supported by expectations for economic growth and accommodative central bank policies.
U.S. fund investors put the most money into overseas equities since the second quarter in 2015, with more than half of the $90 billion outflows for the first half coming in the second quarter, according to preliminary Lipper data.
The MSCI Emerging market index <.MSCIEF> has risen 17 percent year-to-date compared with a 4.9 percent rise for Europe's Stoxx 600 <.STOXX> index and the S&P 500 index's 8.0 percent gain.
Since emerging market central banks have been lowering interest rates and their currencies have been falling in recent years this is now helping to boost economic growth, according to Northwestern Mutual's Chief Investment Strategist, Brent Schutte.
But still the emerging market index is roughly 25 percent off its all-time high reached in 2007 while the Stoxx 600 is 8.0 percent off its record high. In comparison the S&P 500 is just 1.0 percent below its latest record, reached in June 2017.
The overseas indexes could reach new record highs over the next two years, according to Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago citing improving growth.
"Finally the recovery has really picked up in the rest of the world. It's moving along faster than the U.S. because it's trailed. The U.S. is further along because the central bank here really was aggressive in quantitative easing first," said Ablin.
For the second quarter, revenue for companies in European markets are expected to grow 5.8 percent compared with 4.6 percent for S&P 500 index companies and 11.5 percent for emerging markets in the Asia Pacific Region, according to Reuters data.
Earnings estimates for European companies for the period stand out with a 13.5 percent jump seen compared with 8.0 percent growth expected for the S&P 500 and 6.4 percent for emerging markets.
Northwestern Mutual's Schutte said his company is betting that outperformance in emerging market and European stocks should continue and cited a one-two year timeframe for investment in eurozone stocks in particular.
His firm started moving money into non-U.S. stocks around February 2016 when it replaced investments in U.S. real estate investment trusts with equities in international developed markets in expectation of improving earnings growth.
However, not everybody is convinced that the attraction of European stocks will last as long. John Praveen, chief investment strategist at, Prudential International Investments Advisers LLC in Newark, New Jersey was wary of predicting European outperformance beyond the next quarter.
Praveen expects strong earnings growth in both Europe and emerging markets this year. But he said potential headwinds in Europe could include a pull back in European Central Bank monetary policy accommodation or uncertainly around a national Italian election, required by the end of the first half of 2018.
But for now he said, "Their earnings outlook is stronger and their central bank is still providing quantitative easing liquidity while ours is raising rates and the Fed is starting normalization."
(Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt)