Investors flock to stocks, the riskiest asset class -survey

By Jamie McGeever

LONDON (Reuters) – Equities will be the riskiest asset class this year and through the next decade, but will also offer the highest returns and attract the biggest allocation boost from investors, a poll predicted on Monday.

In a survey of more than 11,500 investors by asset management firm Franklin Templeton Investments, 59 percent said stocks would be the most lucrative investment this year, followed by real estate (55 percent) and precious metals (39 percent).

Almost a third (32 percent) said they plan to increase their exposure to stocks this year, more than double the number (14 percent) that plan to reduce it, and a higher percentage than those who will increase bond, alternative investment or cash holdings.

Globally, equities were seen as the riskiest asset class in 2015 and over the next 10 years, according to 35 percent of those polled, closely followed by the euro (34 percent) and non-metal commodities (32 percent).

The most bullish on stocks were UK investors, 74 percent of whom expect the market to rise this year.

While stocks were seen as the biggest risk globally, European investors said the euro currency will be their biggest risk in 2015 and over the next 10 years.

“Views of what constitutes risk vary within the industry, and it’s important for investors to have a clear understanding of what risk means to them and how it impacts their portfolios,” said Jamie Hammond, managing director, Europe, Franklin Templeton Investments.

“In today’s volatile, low interest rate environment, many investors are looking for actively managed investment solutions that can help reduce volatility in unpredictable markets, while seeking to provide attractive risk-adjusted returns.”

Despite widespread talk of a bubble forming in global bond markets, the survey showed that 28 percent of investors plan to increase their fixed income holdings this year, compared with 16 percent who plan to cut back.

The biggest improvement in overall sentiment from last year’s survey was among Spanish investors, followed by their Chinese and French counterparts. Brazilian investors were the most downbeat compared with a year ago.

The state of the global economy was the biggest single concern for investors (38 percent), followed by government fiscal policy and the euro zone debt crisis (both 32 percent).

The survey covered over 11,500 investors in 23 countries across the Americas, Africa, Asia Pacific and Europe.

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)