Some Managers Moving Funds to Europe, Asia

U.S. fund managers seem inclined not to make any big shifts in allocations among the major asset classes, but a new Reuters poll shows money moving into Europe outside of the Eurozone and into Asia outside of Japan.

"It's the valuations," said Donald Gimbel, senior managing director at Carret & Co. LLC (search) in New York.

"Even though the multiples in the U.S. have come down, and there are some interesting stocks, the fact remains that whether it's Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia or China, the valuations appear to be more compelling and the growth prospects as good or better than the U.S."

The latest monthly survey of U.S. managers shows a 58.1 percent weighting for stocks in August, little changed from 57.5 percent in July. The bond allocation rose to 37.9 percent from 36.8 percent a month ago and cash fell to 2.9 percent from 3.1 percent.

The survey of 13 asset managers was conducted from Aug. 17 to Aug. 26.

Among the regions, the allocation to Asia outside of Japan rose to 8.2 percent in August from 7.4 percent a month ago. The shift of assets to Europe outside of the Eurozone rose to 14.9 percent from 9.3 percent.

The North American allocation fell to 45.8 percent from 53.1 percent and the Eurozone allocation slipped to 16.9 percent from 17.1 percent. The Japan allocation was 9.2 percent, a small decline from 9.3 percent in July.

"There was a sense for a while that the China slowdown was going to be more difficult, more pernicious than the market desired," said Arnim Holzer, investment strategist for the global asset allocation group at Deutsche Asset Management in New York.

But Holzer says those fears have subsided and investors are comfortable with China's growth rate and that should be good for the entire region.

Martin Schulz, director of international equity investments for National City Investment Management Co. (search), says Asian markets attracted some money after a sell-off earlier in the year.

In assessing Europe versus Asia, Schulz says that relatively speaking, Asia is more vulnerable to oil prices should they remain high.

High oil prices, rising interest rates, election uncertainties and concerns about geopolitics are all cited as reasons to shun the United States for now.

On Aug. 20, U.S. crude oil futures jumped to a record of $49.40 a barrel — the highest price in the 21 years since oil futures began trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange (search). Since then, NYMEX crude has dropped to about $43.

"There's some confusion about what high energy prices mean for growth and inflation," Deutsche's Holzer said. "The election is probably given more importance than it deserves."

The survey showed investors expect to reduce an underweight in bonds over the next three months as they trim an overweighting in stocks. Cash is seen moving from an underweight to an overweight.

Among the regions, North America is seen moving from a small overweight in stocks to an underweight, while the Eurozone moves to an overweight from the current underweight.

Non-Japan Asia is expected to move from overweight to neutral and Europe outside of the Eurozone is likely to move to a moderate overweight from neutral.

The managers expect the energy sector to move from an overweight in stocks to an underweight.

"The urgency to be overweight energy is a cyclical phenomenon," Gimbel said. "Currently, there are a number of factors, including the fear factor and the shortage of refining capacity, that have pushed the price of energy and energy stocks higher than the fundamentals would warrant."