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A huge reversal might be about to take place — and it could see $2.3 trillion move in to the stock market

Tina Wadhwa
giant waves

(REUTERS/Stephane Mahe )
A huge amount of investment dollars have flowed out of equities and into bonds over the past decade.

But, according to a note published by Societe Generale's Cross Asset Research team on Monday, this "de-equitisation" trend has slowly been reversing, and "a significant portfolio rebalancing may be on the cards."

That could lead to a flood of money, potentially amounting to $2.3 trillion, moving in to the stock market. 

The percentage of equities in mutual fund portfolios (both active and passive) has fallen from about 90% to around 60% in the past ten years in Europe and to around 70% in US funds, according to the note.

Meanwhile, the bond and credit component of portfolios has strongly increased. Over the same period, the bond component in European mutual fund portfolios has increased from 4% in 2005 to 40% currently, and the corporate bond component has increased from 3.1% in 2007 to 5.2% in the US, and from 4.1% in 2009 to 15.6% in Europe.

This trend of de-equitisation of portfolios in favor of bonds is linked to the interest rate environment. Bond yields and prices are inversely related, and as bond yields have fallen, bond prices have increased. 

"As long as bond yields continued to fall, investors generated capital gains on existing bond portfolios," the note said. 

However, with bond yields starting to rise again, investors are beginning to rethink their strategies. This reversal is already under way but still in the beginning stages, according to the note. During most of 2016, net inflows into bond funds remained very strong, especially in the US and in emerging markets. Net inflows into equities started to improve only toward the end of 2016.

"Most investors have only just started to adapt the structure of their portfolios," the note said. "In most instances, truly bold and brave decisions that potentially concern all portfolio components have still yet to be taken."

Societe Generale estimates that a 10% reweighting to equities would imply a global portfolio reshuffle of $2.3 trillion.

Screen Shot 2017 01 09 at 1.53.07 PM

(EPFR Global, SG Cross Asset Research/Global Asset Allocation – Mutual Fund

Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote about a "violent rotation" taking place in the market back in November, when investors pulled money out of bond funds and into equity funds at an unprecedented rate post Trump's election. 

Goldman Sach's Chief US equity strategist, David Kostin has a different view however. In a note released on Friday, he said that investors were not giving up on fixed income just yet. "Asset migration will not occur for two key reasons," Kostin said. "First, funds must be sourced from one area before they can be re-invested in another. However, regulatory and policy restrictions limit the ability of many categories of investors to allocate assets away from bonds."

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