Recession fears have investors hoarding the most cash since 9/11, Bank of America reveals

May 17, 2022, 3:35 PM UTC

It seems the bears have well and truly come out of hibernation — and they’re crowning cash king.  

A Bank of America survey of fund managers revealed Tuesday that investors are hoarding cash at the highest rate since 9/11.

The survey, which had responses from 331 participants who collectively manage assets worth $986 billion, was carried out between May 6 and May 12, 2022.

BofA strategists said its results were a reflection of “extremely bearish” sentiment among asset managers.

The economic climate appeared to be weighing on appetite for risk, with survey participants naming hawkish central banks and the possibility of a recession as the two biggest risks to their assets.

Average cash balances among fund managers surged to a 20-year high of 6.1% in May, with participants naming cash as the asset class they were most bullish on.

BofA researchers noted that investors were also bullish on other defensive assets like healthcare stocks and commodities, while they were bearish on riskier assets like bonds and cyclicals.

Amid the massive tech sell-off seen this month, the BofA survey found that fund managers’ asset allocation to tech stocks was at its lowest since August 2006 — and the allocation to stocks, in general, was at its lowest since May 2020.

Despite the apparent hesitancy toward high-risk assets, BofA strategists speculated that stocks were “prone to [an] imminent bear rally” — but they warned that the market’s ultimate lows had not yet been reached.

The dollar index – which measures the price of the greenback against a basket of other currencies – hit a 20-year high earlier this month, just before the BofA survey was conducted.

The U.S. currency often serves as a safe haven for investors in times of uncertainty or volatility.

Global stock markets have been on a tumultuous ride in recent weeks, with equities taking a downward turn on the back of interest rate hikes and economic uncertainty. Tech stocks, in particular, have suffered.

After the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter of this year, many companies are also shifting their focus to cash flow as concerns about a possible recession mount.

Earlier this month, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent an internal memo to employees which said the company’s focus had shifted from profitability to free cash flow.

Peloton also told its workforce this month that its strategy was being centered on restoring positive free cash flow, while Venture Capitalists are reportedly telling start-ups to reign in hiring and make sure they have enough cash to operate for two years.

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