NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Halfway through October, just two weeks away from Halloween, the evidence is in on what's spooking fund managers these days. No, it's not earnings season (though Tuesday's late headlines on Intel ( INTC) and IBM ( IBM) may change that); it's the oh so scary prospect of going over the fiscal cliff! That's the biggest takeaway from the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch fund manager survey, which involved an overall total of 269 panelists with roughly $734 billion in assets under management queried between Oct. 5-11. A whopping 72% of those polled said they believed the fiscal cliff, which refers to the looming expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and other stimulus programs at the start of 2013, is "not substantially priced into global equities and macroeconomic data." Forty-two percent of respondents identified the cliff as the no. 1 tail risk for the market, up from 35% in September and 26% in August. Fear not though, this overwhelming worry about the very same issue hasn't manifested itself in less faith in stocks. In fact, the survey found a net 24 percent of asset allocators are overweight equities, up from a net 15 percent in September. "While the U.S. fiscal cliff is a hurdle, growing belief in the global economy could spur a more 'risk on' stance from investors," said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at B of A Merrill Lynch Global Research, in a press release. In accompanying research, B of A delved deeper into what sectors are getting the most love when it comes to equities and unearthed an interest factoid involving a status that it says U.S. banks haven't been afforded in more than six years. "October's big OW's
overweights are Tech and Pharma; the big UW's underweights are Banks and Utilities," the firm said. "Relative to the past decade, investors are very long US domestic demand plays (e.g. consumer discretionary) and very short China-plays (e.g. Energy andMaterials). Global banks are out of favor, but US investors are OW US banks for first time since 8/2006."
Just in time for Bank of America's ( BAC) earnings report, which is due before Wednesday's opening bell. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for a loss of 7 cents a share on revenue of $21.89 billion from B of A in the third quarter. At this point, it's difficult to get too excited about Bank of America's numbers. It can't get any traction on the top line and is so big that it's almost impossible to see any signs of a turnaround. For every positive in the numbers each quarter, there's typically a negative to be found somewhere else. The stock is up 70% so far in 2012, a testament to how dismal 2011 truly was more than anything else. The sell side remains negative with 23 of the 33 analysts covering the shares at either hold (20), underperform (2) or sell (1), and the median price target sitting at $9, implying potential downside of nearly 5% from Tuesday's close at $9.46. Aside from an unlikely blowout performance, the bank could make a splash if Brian Moynihan resigned/got pushed out of the CEO spot, similar to what happened with the abrupt resignation of Vikram Pandit as CEO of Citigroup ( C) on Tuesday. That's another long shot but the prospect does get bandied about from time to time. As for the rest of Wednesday's scheduled news, there's plenty of earnings to consider. The morning roster is stacked with notables such as A.O. Smith ( AOS), Abbott Laboratories ( ABT), Bank of New York ( BK), BlackRock ( BLK), Check Point Software ( CHKP), Comerica ( CMA), First Cash Financial Services ( FCFS), Halliburton ( HAL), Knight Capital Group ( KCG), M&T Bank ( MTB), PepsiCo ( PEP), Piper Jaffray ( PJC), Quest Diagnostics ( DGX), St. Jude Medical ( STJ), Textron ( TXT), and U.S. Bancorp ( USB). It's calmer after the close with just Dow component American Express ( AXP) and eBay ( EBAY) on the docket. It will also be interesting to see where Apple ( AAPL) goes from here as investors will be positioning themselves ahead of the Oct. 23 media event confirmed Tuesday that's expected to mark the launch of the iPad Mini. The stock's recent weakness has been well-documented, and Jefferies observed Tuesday the trading in the wake of the iPhone 5's launch bore some similarities to previous patterns. "Sixty days after the launches for both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S, Apple's stock price fell 8% vs. -10% 30 days after the iPhone 5 launch," wrote the firm, which has a buy rating and a $900 price target on Apple. "But 90 days after the launch of the iPhone 4 and 4S, Apple's stock price recovered 17% and 9%, respectively. Also, the press coverage regarding the bumpy transition to the Apple Maps App and the scratches on the case similarly follows the iPhone 4 antenna-gate and the iPhone 4S battery and Siri issues. Despite these concerns, the 4 and 4S were huge successes, and we expect the same for the 5."
Jefferies was also bullish about Apple's upcoming earnings report, saying its research suggest the company is producing and selling roughly 500,000 iPhone 5s per day. "Our supply checks support that CQ3 was slightly better than expected but was held back by iPhone 5 supplies that were retained for international market launches," the firm said. "We believe Apple will unveil iPad mini on 10/23 along with a 13" Retina Macbook. We believe there is a chance a new iTunes is unveiled with streaming music and Facebook integration. Our iPad mini preliminary BOM
bill of materials analysis points to a ~30% GM gross margin, helped by the smaller screen size and a new mfr manufacturing method for the PCB substrates." Wednesday's economic calendar is light with just the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly application activity index at 7 a.m. ET; housing starts and building permits for September at 8:30 a.m. ET; and weekly crude inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET. Aside from the data, there will be the fallout from the second presidential debate for investors to consider. President Barack Obama and the Republican challenger Mitt Romney will square off at Hofstra University in Long Island, NY at 9 p.m. ET with a town hall-style format that's expected to focus more on social issues than the economy. The Street's Joe Deaux will be live-blogging the proceedings. And finally, aside from Intel and IBM, Apollo Group ( APOL) was a big loser in late trades after the for-profit education company fell short of revenue views for its latest quarter and announced a massive restructuring. A declining trend for enrollment is the culprit for Apollo Group, which operates the University of Phoenix, and the company is planning to lay off as many as 800 employees and close 115 locations as part of its reorganization. The stock was last quoted at $25.05, down 9%, on extended volume of more than 220,000, according to Nasdaq.com. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.