Given current conditions, investors are liking cash better than stocks.
A looming U.S. interest rate hike, a potential debt default in Greece and a possible bubble in the Chinese equities market are spooking fund managers, who are loading up on cash investments instead of stocks, according to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey released this morning.
The poll found fund managers had increased their cash holdings to 4.9 percent of investment portfolios, which is up from 4.5 percent in the May survey. The uptick occurred as their stock holdings dropped to 38 percent from 47 percent last month. The results confirm recent sell-offs in the market as investors pulled back on U.S. and Asian equities.
Still, European stocks remain attractive. “Investors remain bullish on European equities, but are increasingly concerned about Greece and higher yields,” said James Barty, head of European equity strategy, in a statement.
Of the stocks that comprise the WWD Global Stock Tracker, more issues have been declining than advancing. In the prior-month period, 62 stocks have declined, while 38 have advanced. But in the six-month period, the stock tracker has maintained a 6 percent gain.
The top declining stocks in the tracker for the past month include Vince Holding Corp., which is down over 29 percent to $12.80, and The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which lost 31 percent in the past four weeks to $4.75. Sears Holdings Corp. is down 35 percent to $27.09 in the same period.
Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research, said higher “cash levels show how caution is in the air, with 65 trading days until we expect the Fed to tighten” interest rates. The survey showed that expectations of higher rates “are the highest since May 2011, with a net 80 percent of [respondents] forecasting a rise in short-term rates.”
The U.S. Federal Reserve’s open markets committee is meeting Wednesday, and investors will be looking for clues regarding a rate hike. Regarding Greece, 42 percent of the respondents expect a “default without exit.” Meanwhile, 70 percent of those polled say the stock market in China is in a bubble. And a “net 50 percent see China’s economy weakening.”
And globally, 17 percent of the fund managers surveyed are expecting corporate operating margins to fall in the next 12 months.
The survey polls 207 fund managers each month who collectively have over $560 billion in assets under management.