Fund managers eye property as stocks get pricey

Investors are piling into the 'anti-emerging market trade,' which includes a wide variety of asset classes.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 17, 2014 4:26PM
Smiling businessman looking out office window © Daly and Newton, OJO Images, Getty ImagesBy Jenny Cosgrave, CNBC

Global fund managers are snapping up real estate as well as equities as part of a wider "anti-emerging market trade," a survey reveals.

Global portfolio manager allocations to real estate both directly and through real estate investment trusts have risen to a 6 percent overweight in June, up from 1 percent the previous month and the highest level in eight years, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML).

"It is not just real estate, it is eurozone equities, it is the anti-emerging market trade, the opposite end of the scale to commodities and emerging market related stocks. They are all a domestic recovery-type story," said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at the bank.

"The (real estate) allocation readings have generally been on the rise over last five years. By comparison, in the depths of 2008 and 2009 net 32 percent investors were underweight real-estate," said equity and quant strategist at BofAML Manish Kabra.

At the same time, investors have reduced their cash buffers, which at 4.5 percent on average for the 223 managers running a total of $581 billion surveyed, is still high but at the lowest level since January.

The bank said the excess cash had gone more or less straight into the equity market, even as investors now view the asset class as very overvalued.

Global stock markets have consistently broken record highs this year, supported by data pointing to an economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe, along with loose monetary policy.

However even as the equity bull-run continues, traders have complained of low volumes and little volatility, which they say makes it difficult to detect investor mood.

Nevertheless, stocks are more in favor than at any other time this year, with 48 percent of asset allocators reporting overweights, up 11 percentage points month-on-month.

Meanwhile, 67 percent of asset managers reviewed by State Street see multi-asset investment funds as the most likely to drive growth.

Multi-asset products are able to invest across asset classes, including cash, bonds, equities and alternative investments such as real estate. These kinds of funds were seen as 50 percentage points more likely to deliver growth than straightforward, actively managed equity funds.

Only 7 percent of the 300 global investors reviewed by State Street, each with at least $5 billion of assets under management, saw traditionally managed fixed income funds as the most likely to achieve growth.

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