Global investors returning to U.S. equities

Global investors increasingly are turning to U.S. and emerging market equities as Europe’s economy continues to falter.

According to the BofA Merrill Lynch Survey of Fund Managers for November, investors have slightly increased their exposure to equities since October’s survey. Five percent of the panel is underweight equities, down from 7 percent a month ago, and the number of investors who are overweight in U.S. equities rose sharply to 20 percent from 6 percent in October.

Global emerging markets bounced back after a weak October. Twenty-seven percent of investors are overweight the region, up from 9 percent last month. The Eurozone remains the least popular region, but the number of investors underweight Eurozone equities ticked down just 1 percentage point to 30 percent.

“Investors are showing belief in emerging market growth and U.S. resilience, which is key to retaining positive global sentiment,” said Michael Hartnett, chief global equities strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Research. Gary Baker, head of European equities strategy at BofA Merrill Lynch Research, added, “European growth concerns are more intense but sentiment looks to be close to rock bottom – unless Europe’s problems spread to the rest of the world.”

Seventy-two percent of European respondents to the survey said they believe Europe will experience recession in the coming year, up from 37 percent in October. Fears of a global recession have eased. Thirty-one percent of investors surveyed felt the world economy would dodge a recession in the next 12 months, up from 25 percent last month.

For the first time, the survey asked global investors what they foresee for China’s economy. Seventy-eight percent said they expect China’s economy to grow by more than 7 percent during the year. Only 25 percent of those surveyed thought China’s economy would weaken in the coming year, down from 47 percent in October.

Investors’ belief in emerging markets is reflected in increased allocations to commodities and commodity-related equities. Global asset allocators have moved from underweight commodities in October to neutral this month. The biggest positive swings in equity allocations were in energy and materials. One percent of allocators are underweight materials, down from 9 percent in October. The proportion of allocators overweight energy stocks stands at 20 percent, up from 11 percent a month ago.

Emerging markets and the U.S. are the regions that investors feel most positively about. A net 28 percent say they would like to overweight emerging market equities more than any other region, while a net 18 percent opt for the U.S. A net 29 percent would most want to underweight the eurozone.

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