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BofA Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey Finds Strong Sentiment Consolidating While Equity Valuations Retain Support

Confidence in a strong global economic outlook has consolidated while investors have indicated that they see support from current equity valuations after the recent rally, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey for February.

A net 59 percent of investors believe the global economy will strengthen in the year ahead, in line with the reading in January, which marked four consecutive months of rising sentiment. The outlook for profits has improved with a net 39 percent of the panel saying that profits worldwide will improve in the coming 12 months, up from a net 29 percent in January. The desire for higher capital expenditure is strong with 48 percent of investors saying that capex is the best use of corporate cash – the highest reading since April 2011.

Investors have indicated that they continue to perceive value in equities in light of strong market performances of early 2013. A net 13 percent of global investors still say that equities are under-valued. At the same time, a net 82 percent say bonds are overvalued, the second-highest level recorded by the survey with the highest coming at the peak of the European sovereign bond crisis in 2012.

Risk appetite has also remained steady month-on-month. Average cash balances in portfolios remain at 3.8 percent, though the net percentage of investors overweight cash has fallen to 2 percent this month from 8 percent in January, the lowest reading since February 2011.

“The continued high level of optimism is a concern and markets may be vulnerable to bad news, but valuation support suggests any correction should be short and shallow, and our core 'Great Rotation' theme remains in play,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. “Investors are striking a balance between the optimism over growth and caution over investment decisions. Investors have so far resisted taking an exuberant stance,” said John Bilton, European investment strategist.

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