Despite the stock market's 60% gain since March, a good number of investors continue to view Wall Street with a wary eye. The memory of the market's harrowing drop in late 2008 and early 2009 remains fresh in their minds, and many are convinced a correction is right around the corner. Some have even started to kick around the idea of a double-dip recession, where growth will again turn negative after rebounding for a quarter or two. But a new report shows that the majority of fund managers aren't losing too much sleep over a potential double dip.
Hungry for risk
The most recent Bank of America
And these managers are putting their money where their mouths are. The B of A survey shows cash positions are at their lowest level since 2004, as managers move assets into stocks. According to the survey, a net 38% of respondents are overweight in equities, compared to just 27% in September. Apparently it's full steam ahead for the average mutual fund manager, regardless of the potential risk of a double-dip recession.
Timing the market
But one has to wonder: If so many of these managers missed the market's inflection point on the way down, why should we trust them now that they think the sailing is clear? Well, I'll be the first to say that they made the wrong calls in the past and most of them will be wrong to some degree in the future.
But there are solid reasons to be more optimistic about the economic outlook right now. Data has shown that economic activity is firming, housing is stabilizing, and job losses are diminishing. While that's hardly a recipe for a return to robust growth, it does give solid proof that the worst is likely over and the economic picture is improving. So the managers surveyed do have cause for greater optimism.
More importantly, investors shouldn't waste too much energy trying to pinpoint the next market correction or even a double-dip recession. While it's human nature to want to outmaneuver the market's short-term gyrations, it's just not feasible in practice. If you yank your money out of the market now in anticipation of another big drop, you could miss out on more of the rebound if a correction doesn't materialize right away. As difficult as it may be, if you keep your focus on the long run, a short-term drop or correction won't make too much difference to you in the big picture.
Pockets of opportunity
While you aren't going to be able to perfectly time the market and avoid each and every downturn, if nothing else, you can take a cue from the surveyed fund managers and get some timely ideas for your own portfolio. From the looks of things, all the action is happening overseas.
Europe is a favored destination for the pros right now, with sentiment in the area at its highest level in eight years. European financials in particular are coming back into favor with investors. For example, Fidelity Europe (FIEUX) is currently finding favor with names like HSBC
There's also little doubt that emerging markets will continue to play a leading role in the global recovery; 36% of survey respondents said they would be likely to overweight emerging markets in the next year. Financials and energy stocks are also a big draw in the emerging world right now. Manager Justin Leverenz of Oppenheimer Developing Markets (ODMAX), which is up nearly 75% year to date, is betting on picks like Indian financial services company HDFC Bank
So while you'll likely hear more in the media about a potential double-dip recession, try not to lose sleep over it. I can't guarantee there won't be another downturn, but if you keep your eyes on the long term, it won't ruffle your feathers as much. Take a cue from the fund managers in this survey, and use this time to stock up on good buys and rebuild your portfolio. That's the way to build long-term wealth, no matter what next week or next month may have in store.
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Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter. At the time of publication, she did not own any of the funds or companies mentioned herein. Petroleo Brasileiro is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. HDFC Bank is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.