(Bloomberg) — Fund managers are ignoring this year’s rally in equity and credit markets and are hiding in cash amid concerns about the state of the global economy, the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE:) survey shows.
Investors favor defensive assets, such as cash, real estate investment trusts and staple stocks over equities, according to a poll conducted from Oct. 4 through Oct. 10. Fund managers’ exposure to cash rose compared to September, signaling a buying opportunity for risk assets. However, it remains below the high reached in June.
Clouds continue to gather around growth expectations, with about a third of surveyed investors expecting the world economy to weaken over the next 12 months. This sentiment follows a stream of disappointing U.S. data releases at the start of October, which halted the September and year-to-date rally in risk assets and fueled a retreat in global equities as fund managers retreated to havens.
It also doesn’t help that the U.K.’s political risks remain elevated, with the Brexit deadline quickly approaching and major questions persisting in U.S.-China trade negotiations. Investors view the end of the trade spat as the most bullish factor for equity markets in the next six months, according to BofA.
“If trade war and Brexit fears are unrealized in the fourth quarter, then macro can beat expectations, validating our contrarian bullish view,” said BofA strategists led by Michael Hartnett.
The survey’s results are in line with the influx of $322 billion into money market funds over the past six months, which is the largest flight to safe assets since the 2008 financial crisis. The most popular long positions among the polled fund managers are U.S. Treasuries, U.S. tech and growth stocks, as well as investment-grade corporate bonds.
A total of 175 fund managers overseeing $507 billion participated in the global survey. Sentiment toward global equities improved significantly right after the poll was completed, fueling gains in risk assets. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC television Monday the U.S. and China made “substantial progress” last week in negotiations and he expected Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping to finalize the accord at a summit in Chile next month.
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