Asset managers aren’t quite ready to call the end of the stock market’s bull run, expecting the market to keep moving higher at least in the medium term. Billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio telling reporters at Davos, “If you’re holding cash, you’re going to feel pretty stupid.” BlackRock’s chief executive Larry Fink got in on the act as well, urging investors in places like China and Germany to stop keeping money in cash as stock markets reach new highs.
However, a few are advising clients to take a breather and go into cash as they see stronger pullbacks and a return of volatility that has been largely absent in equity markets over the last two years.
Edward Jones’ Kate Warne has been urging clients to build up their cash positions.
“I always think you want to be preparing for the next phase of the market, not just taking advantage of seemingly day-to-day highs,” Warne said. “Most of us know that won’t last forever. I think we would agree the odds of the market hitting new highs every day this year are zero.”
Warne believes stocks will continue to rise in the medium term but she sees volatility returning after a placid past two years.
“And it’s going to feel worse because we’ve had such little volatility,” she said. That could leave investors shellshocked and looking to sell out of positions too early.
LPL Financial noted that Thursday marks the 398th trading day since the S&P 500 declined at least 5%. That breaks the record for market tranquility set in 1996.
Advisers in other asset classes are also encouraging investors to step back from the punch bowl. Karl Schamotta, director of FX strategy and structured products at Cambridge Global Payments, is encouraging clients to hold cash or optionality in the event of some unexpected market shock that saps risk appetite and brings investors back to the dollar. The greenback has fallen nearly 12 percent since its 2017 peak.
“That’s the risk,” Schamotta said. “It’s gone too far too fast and history would suggest that we see some sort of mean reversion there.”
He adds the large speculative positions stacked expecting the dollar to continue falling are ripe for a reversal that could be up to half of the dollar’s slide.
Peter Toogood, chief information officer at Embark Group, and Sonja Laud, head of equity at Fidelity International, told CNBC earlier this year that it was time for investors to join them in “de-risking” their entire portfolio.
“Bonds are insane and fixed, equities are on highs that don’t make sense… the only diversifier is gold and cash, that’s the only thing left, because everything is expensive, period,” Toogood said.
For now, investors in the United States – both retail and institutional – look to be all in on the market. Bank of America-Merrill Lynch’s global fund manager survey shows a five-year low of 4.4% cash positions. TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey said earlier this week that “cash as a percentage of total client assets remained at historic lows at 12.7%.”