Smart-money recession fears hit an eight-year high: BofA survey

Institutional investors are growing increasingly concerned that the U.S.-China trade conflict will tip the U.S. economy into a recession during the next year, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest global fund manager survey.

The survey, which was conducted between Aug 2 and Aug 8, and polled 224 investors with a combined $553 billion in assets under management, showed that 34% of money managers think a recession is likely in the next 12 months, versus 64% who think its unlikely.

While a majority still see no recession in the near term, the share who do rose to an eight-year high in August.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Rising recession fears coincide with investor concern about valuations across asset classes. They are bullish on bond prices, as 43% of those surveyed expect lower short-term yields over the next 12 months, while only 9% expect higher long-term rates. Bond yields and prices move inversely.

“Taken together, this is the most bullish fund manager survey view on bonds since Nov 2008,” wrote Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at Bank of America, in a note accompanying the survey results.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

At the same time, however, a plurality of investors call betting on U.S. government debt “the most crowded trade,” underscoring concerns about the pricey bond market, though most still expect these high valuations to persist.

Investors are also concerned about U.S. stock market valuations, as the S&P 500 SPX, +1.58%  , Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.56%  and Nasdaq Composite index COMP, +1.96%  all sit within roughly 4% of their all-time highs.

Even as U.S. equities registered as the most popular regional asset class, 78% of investors surveyed said the region was overvalued — the only other time these measures were at such extremes simultaneously was during

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