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Global equities: What's the right allocation now?

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Advisers and clients are at odds over a critical question: Do recent market swings represent a buying opportunity or a warning signal?

Brexit and other scares have prompted clients to drastically lower their allocations to global equities and bonds. In fact, allocations to these assets fell below 40, hitting record lows, according to the latest Global Asset Allocation Tracker, which polled 328 financial planners. Readings of less than 50 indicate declining conditions.

Clients’ risk tolerances have been changing, particularly with regard to global markets, advisers say. “Clients are looking for safety and consistency in their portfolios,” a wealth manager says.

"Clients are looking for safety and consistency in their portfolios," a wealth manager says.

One planner says that clients “still want to invest; only they want to be conservative.”

Several advisers also say they’ve turned increasingly to U.S. markets because of the strengthening dollar and weak economic indicators in overseas markets. “There is no reason to apply more risk, when we can get better returns, with a higher yield, and lower risk in domestic stocks and bonds,” a wealth manager says.

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Yet, some advisers say now is not the time to pull back, with at least one planner protesting that “the press is overblowing the topic” and that, as a result, clients have overreacted to Brexit and other concerns. “After the Brexit selloff, we found a lot of undervalued stocks and funds,” an adviser says.

“I believe that those with longer time horizons are being provided opportunities to buy quality international investments at a discount, and I advise clients accordingly,” another planner says.

The debate is likely to remain heated as upcoming events may contribute to increased volatility. Though several advisers expressed concerns about how the presidential election may affect markets and the economy, one planner expressed cautious optimism. This planner says her firm thinks “any conclusion regarding its impact to be premature at this point. On balance, we're running with the bulls.”