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BofA Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey Finds Investors Increasingly Confident In U.S. Outlook

Increasing confidence in the outlook for the U.S. dollar and U.S. equities is offsetting investors’ renewed concerns over China, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch Fund Manager Survey for March.

This month registered the highest level of dollar bullishness in the survey’s history. A net 72 percent of respondents now expect the U.S. currency to appreciate over the next year, a 30-point increase in a month. Bearishness on U.S. stocks has also reversed. A net 5 percent identify the U.S. as the regional market it most wishes to overweight, compared to January’s net 19 percent underweight. The U.S. also offers the best outlook of any region for corporate profits by far, investors believe.

Against this background, investors remain positive on the global economy’s recovery and continue to increase exposure to equity markets. A net 61 percent expects macroeconomic performance around the world to strengthen over the next year, a slight increase on last month’s reading. A net 57 percent of asset allocators are now overweight equities, up from a net 51 percent in the two previous months.

This positive stance offsets a gloomier view of China. Only a net 14 percent of regional investors now expect the Chinese economy to be stronger in a year’s time. This represents one of the sharpest falls in this reading in the survey’s history. Significantly increased fears of a hard landing in China are reflected in a shift out of emerging market equities and into developed markets (mainly the U.S. and Japan).

“Relative U.S. economic outperformance on the back of the housing market’s ongoing improvement and the energy independence story will lead a secular uptrend in the dollar. U.S. equities’ leadership in the ‘Great Rotation’ suggests developed market equities are the likeliest winner in this scenario,” Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, said. “A disconnect between European investors’ increasing optimism about the region and global investors’ continued caution over Europe is also apparent in the survey,” added John Bilton, European investment strategist.

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