Allocations to global equities fell 12 percentage points to a 6 percent overweight, or the level compared to what would be typical. That’s the lowest since the market turbulence of September 2016.
In all, Bank of America’s strategists see all the fear as adding up to opportunity.
“”Despite the recent rally, investor sentiment remains bearish,” Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at the firm, said in a note titled “My Big Fat Buyers’ Strike.” “Fund managers’ positioning is still a Q1 positive for risk assets.”
Indeed, the U.S. market is in the midst of a strong run that has taken the S&P 500 up 8.1 percent year to date, while the MSCI World Index has risen more than 7 percent.
Sentiment moving to extremes has been a reliable contrarian indicator for market historically. The January stock market rally coincided with a cash allocation of 4.8 percent, which is above the 4.5 percent threshold that Bank of America considers a bullish sign.
Along with their aversion to stocks, fund managers indicated worry about global growth, as 55 percent say they are pessimistic about the economy and inflation.
Stocks tanked in late 2018 amid worries that global growth was slowing and the Federal Reserve was about to make a policy mistake by continuing to raise interest rates in the face of the weakness. Fed officials have since indicated they are pausing on more tightening and will be patient in the future regarding additional hikes.
Markets rallied amid the policy dovishness, though most economists still expect a growth slowdown this year.