Fund Managers Show ‘Dire’ Levels of Pessimism, Poll Finds

Investors are hoarding cash and lowering their expectations for growth, as pessimism about the outlook for the U.S. economy has reached a “dire” level, according to a survey of 259 fund managers responsible for more than $700 billion in investments.

The monthly survey, produced by Bank of America and widely watched in financial circles, showed that optimism about global growth fell to a record low, dropping below levels documented in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The share of respondents who said a recession was “likely” was the highest since April 2020, during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Investors’ expectations for corporate profitability also deteriorated, with the net percentage of respondents expecting profits to improve also falling to a record low.

The survey results, released on Tuesday, illustrate the decline in investor optimism this year, as soaring inflation, rising interest rates, clogged supply chains and war in Ukraine have sent stock and bond markets into a tailspin.

Analysts at Bank of America said the survey showed a “dire level of investor pessimism,” with fear over the outlook for financial markets and the broader economy reaching the point of “full capitulation.” As they wait out the storm, investors said they were holding the most cash since October 2001, immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Investors want the companies they invest in to adopt a similarly conservative stance. The biggest group said improving their balance sheets and paying down debt was more important than spending on new projects or returning cash to shareholders.

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