Global funds cut stocks, slowdown worries persist

LONDON: Global investors cut their equity holdings in December and raised their exposure to bonds, a Reuters poll of fund managers showed on Tuesday, as worries about a global economic slowdown and uncertainty about the pace of Fed tightening persisted.

Equity holdings fell to 47.9 percent, the lowest since September, while bond holdings rose to 37.9 percent, the highest since December 2014, reflecting a generally cautious mood among asset managers.

“Risks are still in high leverage in China and some other emerging markets and also in uncertainty around the US tightening cycle and its impact on the US dollar,” said Joost van Leenders, chief economist in the multi-asset solutions team at BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

Giordano Lombardo, chief executive and group chief investment officer at Pioneer, said he was maintaining a cautious approach amid political risks, adding the possibility of tail risk events was on the rise.

The survey of 52 fund managers and chief investment officers in the United States, Europe, Britain and Japan was conducted between Dec. 14 and 21.

During this period, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 25 basis points, its first increase since 2006, and signaled it would tighten further at a gradual pace in 2016.

Raphael Gallardo, asset allocation strategist at Natixis, thought that rate hikes were occurring too late in a cycle that was “already ebbing”.

“If the Fed hikes more than twice in H1 2016, it might trigger a downturn in H2, with potential financial tensions in equity and credit markets,” he said.

Peter Lowman, chief investment officer at UK-based wealth manager Investment Quorum, also identified the chance of a mild recession in the United States, or the mismanagement of US monetary policy, as key risks for 2016.

Within their equity portfolios, asset managers trimmed their exposure to US stocks by two percentage points to 38 percent, the lowest level since September. Euro zone equities were cut back to 18 percent, the lowest since January 2015.

Early in December the European Central Bank failed to meet the market’s expectations for all-out monetary easing, triggering a sell-off in European equities. The FTSE Eurofirst index is down almost 7.7 percent month-to-date.

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