Investors Switch Bonds for Stocks, BofA Survey Shows

Investors cut bond holdings to a near two-year low this month, and bought stocks, as expectations the Federal Reserve may remove monetary stimulus bolstered growth forecasts, a Bank of America Corp. survey showed.

A net 50 percent of 190 global fund managers, who together oversee about $572 billion, said they now hold fewer bonds than are represented in asset-allocation benchmarks, while the proportion who are overweight on stocks rose to 48 percent from 41 percent as they bought U.S. and European shares. Emerging-market equity holdings slumped to the lowest level since December 2008.

“Investors’ sentiment has been surprisingly resilient in recent weeks despite the jump in volatility in financial markets,” New York-based Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit, wrote in a note to investors today. “While our fund-flows data shows bond capitulation, the survey shows that there has been no capitulation in equities in the U.S. and Europe.”

The MSCI World Index has fallen 2.9 percent from its five-year high on May 21 after Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said May 22 that the central bank may taper its bond-purchasing plan if economic growth is sustained. The comments spurred ten-year Treasury yields to the largest monthly jump since January 2009, while the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index climbed to a near four-month high.

Overweight U.S.

A net 25 percent of investors said they are overweight U.S. equities, meaning they hold more of the shares than are reflected in benchmarks, the highest level in 13 months.

Holdings of euro-area equities increased to a net 6 percent overweight from a net 8 percent underweight, Bank of America said. Allocations to Japanese equities fell for the first time in eight months, with a net 17 percent of investors this month saying they hold more of the stocks than called for in benchmarks.

A net 56 percent of participants said they expect the global economy to grow in the next 12 months. Still, a net 31 percent said they expect slower Chinese growth, the worst negative reading since October 2011, the survey showed. As a result, a net 9 percent of investors said they are underweight emerging-market stocks, the first negative stance since early 2009 and most bearish reading since December 2008.

Globally, technology, healthcare and luxury-consumer goods are the most favored industries, according to the survey. Utilities, phone companies and providers of basic-resources are the least in demand.

Commodities Allocations

Allocations to commodities fell to a net 32 percent underweight, the lowest level since the data started in January 2006, the survey showed.

“Contrarians should note that commodity and emerging market assets tied to China growth and bond volatility are at extremely bearish levels,” Hartnett said.

Bank of America’s MOVE Index climbed to a 12-month high of 84.75 on June 6, up from a record low of 48.87 in May. The gauge, which measures volatility based on prices of over-the counter options on Treasuries maturing in two to 30 years, is below the average of 82.05 since the start of 2010.

The global survey was conducted from June 7 to June 13.