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Fund Manager Survey: Inflation And Fed Feared More Than Covid

Fund Manager Survey
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EDITOR NOTE: According to a recent Bank of America Fund Manager survey, investors collectively totaling $630 billion in the market are more worried about inflation and the likelihood that the Fed may pull back on its asset purchases. That’s a lot of money in the market, yet that also seems a bit late or short-sighted of a concern. The potential for run-amok inflation has been setting itself up for years. Yet whatever legitimate concerns this might have stirred up, it also seems quite fickle as markets continued to move into record-setting heights once again, minus the Nasdaq. Nevertheless, the real risk remains. Also, notice how inflation concerns seem to have been focused primarily on the stock market and not the real risk of purchasing power erosion. If you hold a diversified portfolio of stocks, it won’t matter when a major plunge takes all sectors down, leaving you with a gaping hole in unrealized losses and an opportunity to move to a “state of cash” that’s quickly losing value. Diversifying into different asset classes such as commodities, real estate, and non-CUSIP gold and silver seems the only real way to prevent your financial house from burning down once the overheating market causes an inflationary firestorm to claim all paper within flame’s reach. 

Just over a year since Covid-19 turned the world upside down, investors are starting to get over it.

For the first time since the pandemic hit, respondents to the Bank of America Fund Manager Survey said the market faces bigger worries.

Inflation now has become the biggest “tail risk,” or outlier event, that could cause the most damage, the widely followed gauge of professional investors showed.

A total of 37% of respondents in the March survey cited that as the biggest challenge, followed by 35% for “taper tantrums” — sharp reactions in the bond market in the event the Federal Reserve unexpectedly pulled back on its monthly asset purchases.

A total of 220 investors with $630 billion in assets under management participated in the bank’s survey, which was conducted from March 5 through Thursday.

Though the coronavirus — specifically problems with the vaccine rollout — remains the third-biggest threat, it was cited by fewer than 15% of respondents, about half the February level.

March marked the first time Covid-related concerns didn’t top the survey since February 2020.

Those three concerns easily outdistanced a bubble on Wall Street, higher taxes or harsher regulation under the Biden administration.

The shift in priorities comes as the U.S. is vaccinating more than 2 million people a day. Hospitalizations and deaths nationally have plunged, though the per-day case decline has plateaued. With most health professionals indicating a return to somewhat normal life by summer and into the fall, investors are beginning to shift priorities.

Inflation has come into view this year as government bond yields have spiked to pre-pandemic levels. One market-based indicator, the “breakeven” rate between 5-year Treasury yields and inflation-indexed bonds, has jumped to its highest level in nearly 13 years.

Survey respondents said a move to the 2% level in the 10-year Treasury note could cause a stock market correction, or a more than a 10% drop. A jump to 2.5% would make bonds more attractive than equities. The benchmark note was trading around 1.6% Tuesday morning.

Though markets have been volatile during the runup in yields, major averages have scaled to near-record territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 7.7% year to date amid a rally in stocks such as Goldman SachsBoeing and Caterpillar that benefit from higher rates and a more aggressive economic recovery.

Broadly speaking, the survey shows that “investor sentiment [is] unambiguously bullish,” said Michael Hartnett, Bank of America’s chief investment strategist.

Investors, however, are making adjustments to their portfolios.

Managers have cut allocation to technology stocks to their lowest overweight level since January 2009. The survey also found a pronounced shift in commodities to an all-time high. Managers have allocated toward their largest overweight position in banks since March 2018. They also made the biggest move to energy since November 2018.

The optimism about stocks comes with hopes running high for a V-shaped recovery, with 48% indicating that path for the economy. A net 91% of managers expect stronger growth, the highest level in the survey’s history.

Originally posted on CNBC

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