Global funds flee stocks, raise bond holdings to five-year high as growth fears mount

February 29, 2016 10:51 AM

European stocks are down around 4% in February and the Nikkei  has lost over 10%, despite the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) surprise adoption of negative interest rates at the end of January.

Money and politics

Some investors, including Giordano Lombardo, chief investment officer at Pioneer Investments Group, said he preferred European and Japanese equities to U.S. ones, saying U.S. earnings growth was most likely late in the economic cycle.

Boris Willems, a strategist at UBS Asset Management, took the same position, citing the accommodative monetary policies still offered by the European Central Bank and BOJ.

Within global equity portfolios, asset managers raised their exposure to euro zone stocks to 19.2%, the highest level since September 2015, whilst Japanese equity holdings remained high at 20.2%.

Politics also played a growing role.

Exposure to UK stocks fell to 10.9% from January's 12.1%, suggesting heightened fears that Britain may vote to leave the European Union (EU) in a summer referendum.

An online poll on Friday gave the campaign to take Britain out of the EU a 4 percentage-point lead, pushing sterling near a seven-year low against the dollar.

"Sterling has taken the full force of the recent uncertainty ... in allocation the currency has become a big headache," Investment Quorum's Lowman said.

Within fixed income portfolios, asset managers cut their exposure to UK bonds to 10.1%, and raised U.S. bonds by about 2 percentage points to 37.7%. Euro zone bond holdings were trimmed to 28.4%.

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