Investors Favor U.S., Japanese Stocks, Survey Says

Investors are the most bullish on global equities in more than two years, as monetary stimulus from central banks prompted demand for U.S. and Japanese stocks, a Bank of America Corp. survey showed.

A net 57 percent of global money managers, who together oversee about $578 billion, said they are overweight on equities this month, the highest reading since early 2011. That is up from 51 percent in February. Holdings in U.S. stocks are at their highest level in eight months, while allocations to Japanese equities jumped to the highest since 2007.

“Quantitative easing has brought peace to the financial world,” Michael Hartnett, Bank of America’s chief global strategist in New York, wrote in the report dated today. “Investors say liquidity conditions are the best ever; few see the peace ending.”

Investors have poured $101.6 billion into developed-market equity mutual funds so far this year, according to the most recent data from Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm EPFR Global. That pushed the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index within 1 percent of a record last week and Japan’s Topix Index to the highest level since 2008.

Holdings in U.S. stocks climbed this month to the highest level since July, with 14 percent overweight on the region, the survey showed. Allocations to Japan jumped to 15 percent overweight. That’s up from 7 percent in February and is the highest since July 2007.

Emerging Markets

Emerging-market equities remained investors’ favorite choice in March, while Europe was the least preferred, as concern over the region’s sovereign-debt crisis returned. A net 4 percent said they were overweight Europe in March, down from 8 percent in February.

“Asset allocation is skewed towards the U.S. and Japanese equities,” John Bilton, European investment strategist at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit, said at a press conference in London. “Despite European stocks being seen as cheap and the outlook for corporate profits, investors are unwilling to commit to the region.”

The survey was concluded on March 14, two days before euro-area finance ministers reached an agreement that forced Cyprus to propose an unprecedented levy on bank deposits and sparked a selloff in global equities yesterday. Cypriot lawmakers are preparing to debate the levy today after two days of delays.

“This does look like it may be a one off, but right now markets are clearly mindful that there could be a precedence set” in Cyprus, Bilton said at the briefing today. “For markets to move on, Cyprus will need to have a clear statement from European leaders that this is a one-off process.”

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