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Fund managers bearish on growth, but cling onto shares

Fund managers bearish on growth, but cling onto shares
Fund managers are the most bearish on global growth they have been since the depths of the financial crisis, according to the latest survey from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The survey, conducted last week as global stock markets tumbled, found a net 38% believed global economic growth would slow over the next 12 months, the worst outlook on the global economy since November 2008.

The percentage believing the global economy is now in its late cycle meanwhile shot up to 85%, the highest ever reading since the bank first started surveying views on the question in 2004.

Despite those concerns, managers have held their allocation to global equities steady at a net 22% overweight, close to July’s recent low of net 19% overweight, signalling that managers are taking a wait-and-see approach to the end of the cycle.

'Investors are bearish on global growth,’ said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist. ‘But not bearish enough to signal anything but a short-term bounce in risk assets.’

But the big sell-off in global stock markets, led by the US, does seem to have sparked a shift, with a big move out of the US and into emerging markets from global fund managers. US assets were the most popular 'sell' over the months, with emerging markets the most popular 'buy'.

Emerging markets' fall into bear market territory this year, as both their stock markets and currencies have tumbled, has encouraged a number of managers to see value in the region.

A net 51% of fund managers believe emerging markets currencies are undervalued, the highest ever reading since Bank of America Merrill Lynch first began surveying views on the question in 2004.

The shunning of UK stocks meanwhile appears to be easing, thanks in part to higher hopes of a Brexit deal being reached and the UK stock market's heavy weighting to the in-demand commodities sector.

Global fund managers are still underweight the UK, at a net 19%, but that is an improvement on recent months, with a record low net 41% underweight reported in March.

Allocation to bonds fell to net 50% underweight, although still off the record low of 69% in February, amid the heavy sell-off in the fixed income markets, led by US Treasuries.

But the big spike in US Treasury yields, with the 10-year yield breaching the 3.2% last week, has not been enough to encourage global managers out of shares and into bonds: they identified 3.7% as the trigger.

Short US treasuries jumped to the second most crowded trade in October, cited by 19% of fund managers and leapfrogging long dollar and short emerging markets trades.

Energy stocks were meanwhile heavily in demand as the oil price continues to rally: global fund managers are a net 16% overweight, up from 3% in September and close to a six-year high of 17% recorded in June and July. 

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