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Stock rally in recent months driven by global economy, not Trump: Robeco CIO

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., January 9, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Tomo Uetake

TOKYO (Reuters) - A rally in global stock markets in the past few months is being driven more by improving economic fundamentals than by expectations of more U.S. fiscal stimulus under President-elect Donald Trump, a chief investment officer of Dutch asset management firm Robeco said.

To the contrary, uncertainty over Trump's economic policies is the biggest risk for markets this year, Lukas Daalder, CIO in charge of multi-asset strategies, told Reuters in Tokyo.

Ahead of Trump's inauguration on Friday, Daalder said Robeco has brought its positions to almost completely neutral, and will look to build fresh investment strategies after the new administration takes shape.

"Normally we have quite big exposures. But currently, if you look at the currencies, we are sort of hands off. Basically since the election, the only trade that we currently still have outstanding is a short position in the yen versus the dollar (JPY=)," he said in an interview late on Tuesday.

The U.S. S&P 500 Index (.SPX) has risen 5.3 percent since the Nov. 8 presidential election, while the MSCI ACWI <.MIWD00000PUS>, a gauge of the world's share markets, has gained 3.4 percent.

Many market players have attributed the strong performance to expectations that Trump will swiftly follow through on campaign pledges to cut taxes, spend more on infrastructure and push for deregulation.

While Daalder does not deny that such expectations have played a role, he thinks improving economic fundamentals have been the real driver of share prices worldwide.

"Most people call it the 'Trump rally'. Partly, it is but if you look at the underlining macro data, they have been on the up since September already," he said.

"If Clinton would have won, we would be talking about the 'Clinton rally' - and that would be wrong as well."

Daalder noted that Citi's index which measures economic data surprises has been positive not just in the United States but also in the euro zone, emerging markets and Japan.

"(Having positive surprises in all those regions) doesn't happen that often. And they have been surprising for four, five months already," he added.

GRAPHIC - Citi's Economic Surprises Indices: http://reut.rs/2gomfyU

While the Rotterdam-based investment firm has reset almost all its positions to neutral for now, it still believes in the underlying trend of higher bond yields and strength in the dollar.

The asset manager needs to see more details on how Trump's economic plans will pan out, including his plan to cut taxes by $10 trillion in 10 years.

"If you are in the stock market, tax cuts are good news. The problem is, is he going to? And how is he going to finance that? I'm not saying that's impossible. But you don't know until you see the details," he said.

He added that he plans to stake out new positions within a month.

Robeco Group, bought by Japan's Orix Corp (8591.T) in 2013, had 276 billion euro in assets under management as of Sept. 30.

(Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Kim Coghill)