Fund Managers Look toward Positive Returns in 2010

Investors expect moderate economic growth and solid returns in global equities in 2010, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch Survey of Fund Managers for December.

Optimism about the economy is on the rise, as a net 80% of respondents expect the world economy to grow over the next 12 months, compared to a net 69% in November. Two-thirds of surveyed investors expect equity markets to return to traditional growth levels or better, BofA Merrill reported.

The survey found that inflation concerns remain subdued and a growing proportion of respondents do not expect interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve before the second half of 2010 (see “Fund Managers’ Risk Appetite on the Rise”).

“Investors are nervous but optimistic heading into the New Year, and respondents are looking for a 7.7% total return from global equity markets,” said Michael Hartnett, chief global equity strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, in a statement.

Expectations for corporate profits are at their highest level since December 2003, the firm reported. A net 48% of investors said that companies are under-investing; contrastingly, at the beginning of 2009, most investors thought companies were over-investing.

The survey showed sharp movement out of bank stocks—a move that BofA Merrill said is “isolated” and still allowing for market optimism. A net 28% of respondents are now underweight bank stocks compared with 11% in November, according to the survey.

A total of 213 fund managers, managing a total of $617 billion, participated in the global survey from December 4 to 10. The survey was conducted by BofA Merrill Lynch Research with the help of market research company TNS.