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

Equity allocations stay high but bias shifts to defensives

Allocations towards equities have held at the highs reached in January. A net 51 percent of asset allocators remain overweight global equities. Within equities, sectoral allocations highlight a bias towards a measured easing of risk appetite with a shift towards defensive assets.

Pharmaceuticals, a traditional defensive sector, has returned to the number one sectoral pick for global investors, having been third in the pecking order a month ago. The proportion of investors overweight the sector rose to 27 percent from 11 percent in January.

Cyclical sectors become less popular. The biggest month-on-month faller was Technology, which saw a negative 12 percentage point swing in the number of investors overweight the sector. Materials also suffered a double-digit fall in the percentage of overweights. The number of respondents overweight Technology, Industrials and Energy also fell.

Sentiment towards Japanese equities normalizes

Japanese equities continue to benefit from a positive shift in sentiment by global investors. A net 7 percent of asset allocators say they are overweight Japanese equities this month, up from a net 3 percent in February. In December, a net 20 percent were underweight Japanese equities.

Local sentiment and risk appetite appears strong. A net 29 percent of Japanese investors responding to the Regional Fund Manager Survey say they are underweight cash, up from a net 5 percent one month ago. Automotives, Technology and Banks are the three most popular sectors domestically.

Global investors have indicated that their positive view towards Japan will continue. A net 21 percent of the panel says that the outlook for corporate profits in Japan is more favorable than for anywhere else, up from a net 4 percent in January. Accordingly, a net 9 percent says that Japan is the region they would most like to overweight. Two months ago, a net 17 percent said Japan was the region they most wanted to underweight.

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