The rise in confidence was driven by North America, which registered 99 on the index, up 13.9 points from January. Europe, too, was bullish, with confidence edging up 2.8 points to 92.2. Among Asian investors, however, confidence fell, dropping 4.5 points to 85.5.
The monthly index measures investor confidence or risk appetite by analyzing actual buying and selling patterns of institutional investors, State Street Global Markets, the investment research and trading arm of State Street Corp., said in a statement. A reading greater than 100 means that institutional investors are increasing their allocations to risky assets, meaning they’re buying stocks. A reading less than 100 indicates the opposite: investors are selling equity positions. A reading of 100 is neutral, meaning that institutional investors are neither increasing nor decreasing their allocations to risky assets.
“Since reaching a record low in November, the appetite for risk has rebounded significantly,” said Kenneth Froot, a Harvard University professor and co-developer of the index, said in a statement. “There are a number of risks on the horizon that may give investors pause, including U.S. fiscal negotiations, the outcome of the Italian elections and the direction of Fed policy, so caution is warranted.”
Paul O’Connell of State Street Associates, the other co-developer of the index, noted that the pronounced increase in North American investor confidence represents a 19-month high for the region. “The composition of flows that we have observed is also consistent with an increased appetite for risk, with institutions adding to equity positions in Japan, Europe ex-UK and the emerging markets,” he said.