Richest clients wait for new dip in stocks before buying

Long-term funds suffer record outflows in March 4/29/20
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The majority of the world’s wealthiest clients are waiting for stocks to drop further before buying again, on concerns about the pandemic’s impact on the global economy, according to a poll by UBS Global Wealth Management.

Among the surveyed investors and business owners with at least $1 million in investable assets or in annual revenue, 61% want to see equities fall another 5% to 20% before buying, while 23% say it’s already a good time to do so. Some 16% say that now is not the time to load up on stocks as it’s a bear market.

High net-worth clients are cautious on risk assets as 60% say a global recession is highly likely to occur in the next 12 months, the April poll by UBS showed. Still, they remain largely positive about the long-term outlook.

Sweeping lockdowns intended to curb the novel coronavirus outbreak across major economies have shuttered businesses and sapped demand, significantly increasing the chances of a recession this year. While equities have rallied more than 20% from March lows, they remain well below 2020 highs. Defensives have led the rebound, seen by some as a bearish sign, while this month’s Bank of America survey showed cash positioning at the highest level since the 9/11 terror attacks.

The share of U.S. clients that are optimistic about their own economy in the short-term fell to 30% in the UBS survey, from 68% in the period through early January. By comparison, about 55% of Asian investors had a constructive outlook. The positive six-month outlook for U.S. equities also slumped the most relative to other geographies.

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“While short-term investor optimism across the globe has dropped significantly, levels seem to align regionally with the pandemic cycle,” said Paula Polito, divisional vice chairman at UBS Global Wealth Management. “In Asia, where the COVID-19 crisis and mitigation occurred earlier, investors appear to be slightly more optimistic about their region’s stocks. By contrast, optimism appears lower in the U.S., which is currently experiencing an apex in the crisis.”

Almost half of the poll participants don’t plan to adjust their stock holdings and 37% plan to invest more, whereas only 16% are decreasing their investments.

UBS surveyed 2,928 investors and 1,180 business owners between April 1 and April 20.

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