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Cautious global funds favor bonds over equities in June

·4-min read

By Rahul Karunakar

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Increasingly cautious global funds recommended an increase to bond holdings in June to the highest since early 2010 at least at the expense of equity allocations, which were cut to the lowest in over 3-1/2 years, a Reuters poll showed.

While world stocks have risen sharply since late-March troughs on hopes for a quick economic recovery, the pandemic has shown few signs of abating. In the United States, states like California and Florida have reversed their re-openings, with Arizona also ordering the closure of bars and gyms.

Reuters polls of economists, long-term investors, as well as foreign exchange, fixed-income and property market analysts over the past few months have suggested the recovery from the global economic recession would be slow and long. [ECILT/WRAP][ASSET/WRAP][EUR/POLL][US/INT]

"Financial markets, especially world stocks, have completely dismissed how bad the coronavirus' impact will be on economies around the globe after an initial shock reaction in March and instead diverted attention to a fairy-tale ending - calling for a V-shaped recovery," said a global chief investment officer at a large U.S. fund management company.

"The evidence so far though has clearly pointed to the opposite. But that recovery debate should start later and everyone should be paying more attention instead to the economic devastation from the coronavirus, as it is not a done deal yet."

The June 15-29 poll of 35 fund managers and chief investment officers across North America, Europe and Japan showed a recommended cut to equity allocations to an average 44.2% of their model global portfolio from 45.1% in May. That would be the lowest since November 2016.

But over 70% of fund managers who answered an additional question, or 17 of 24, said equity markets would not revisit this year's lows over the next six months.

With unparalleled fiscal and monetary policy support expected for years, the poll suggested an increase to bond holdings to the highest since the poll series started in early 2010, to 44.3% from 42.4% in May.

That lines up with the findings of a separate Reuters poll of fixed-income analysts published on Tuesday, which showed sovereign bond yields would linger around current low rates over the coming year. [US/INT]

When asked if U.S. Treasury yields would retest this year's lows by end-December, nearly two-thirds of asset managers, or 15 of 24, said that was likely.

"With the Federal Reserve's bond buying programme restraining yields, a shock to markets such as a second wave of COVID-19 driven lockdowns could drive 10-year Treasury yields briefly below their March lows given their current depressed levels," said Craig Hoyda, senior quantitative analyst at Aberdeen Standard Investments in Edinburgh.

Over 90% of funds, or 22 of 24, said the U.S. central bank's gloomy economic outlook was "about right", which was reiterated by Fed Chair Jerome Powell late on Monday. That lines up with separate Reuters polls of economists published last week. [ECILT/US]

"The Fed's assessment reflects the current recessionary environment and weak inflation outlook. We expect short-term lowflation, if not disinflation risks, and then higher likely but not hyperinflation," said Pascal Blanqué, chief investment officer at Europe's largest asset manager, Amundi, in Paris.

But in the latest poll, 54% of fund managers, or 13 of 24 said they would increase equity allocations over the next three months, while 38% said they would trim stock holdings further.

The remaining 8% said they would either trim bond holdings or move into non-traditional assets.

"With interest rates and bond yields at all-time lows - and the likelihood they will remain so for some time to come - makes equity markets the only real game in town," said Peter Lowman, chief investment officer at Investment Quorum in London.

"The coronavirus sell-off in March saw money funds balloon in size but at some point, this money will return - and the reality is that it will return to the equity markets which look better in value than sovereign bonds."

(Reporting and polling by Rahul Karunakar and Sarmista Sen; Editing by Ross Finley and Chizu Nomiyama)

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