U.S. most-favored equity region, tech allocations down: BAML survey

(Reuters) – Despite market wobbles, the United States is the most favored equity region for global fund managers, who broadly expect the S&P500 index to rise another 12 percent before peaking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest investor survey showed on Tuesday.

The November survey, canvassing investors managing $641 billion, was conducted from Nov 2-8 as funds, relieved over the outcome of U.S. midterm elections, rushed to buy more equities.

The survey found investors gloomy on world economic growth prospects, with a net 44 percent expecting a deceleration in the coming year, the worst outlook since the 2008 financial crisis. A net 54 percent expect a Chinese slowdown, the most bearish in over two years.

A trade war was named as the top risk for the sixth month in a row, followed by central bank policy tightening.

GRAPHIC: Evolution of biggest ‘tail risk’ on BAML survey –

Yet only 11 percent expected a global recession in 2019, and in a sign of confidence, poll participants cut their cash balances to an average 4.7 percent, versus last month’s 5.1 percent.

They also upped allocation to U.S. shares by 10 percentage points from October to a net 14 percent overweight, the poll showed, while tech shares – known collectively as FAANG and BAT – remained the “most crowded” trade for the tenth straight month, named by 29 percent of respondents.


Another 22 percent saw a “long” position on the dollar as the most crowded trade, while “short” U.S. Treasury bonds was cited by 25 percent.

In response to a question on where the S&P 500 .SPX would peak in the current bull run, investors pointed to 3,056, up 12 percent from today’s level. But a third of respondents said the market had already peaked.

While FAANGs – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – remain popular, alongside China’s BATs – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent -, there are signs investors’ tech-mania could be turning.

BAML said its poll showed allocation to the global tech sector collapsed to the lowest level since February 2009, with just a net 18 percent of investors now overweight the sector.

Tech, in particular iPhone-maker Apple, has led the latest sell-off on Wall Street, which saw the S&P500 slump 2 percent and the Nasdaq lose 3 percent.

“We remain bearish, as investor positioning does not yet signal ‘The Big Low’ in asset markets,” Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BAML, told clients.

A poll of European funds, however, revealed a higher degree of gloom, with one in six investors seeing a recession as “fairly likely”, though they were less pessimistic than in October.

Sentiment was poor on European assets as a whole, with just a net one percent of global investors overweight euro zone equities – down from a net five percent last month – and the lowest level since December 2016.

Britain was the most “disliked” region for equity investors, with a net 27 percent of respondents underweight, versus 19 percent underweight in October.

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