Global Investing

Zeitgeist check

Some more bits and bobs to capture the current mood among investors:

– MSCI’s all-country world stock index has recaptured all of its 2009 losses and is now working on recouping last year’s. It is up 6 percent for this year.

– Fund researchers EPFR Global notes investors are moving at pace out of cash into emerging market equity and bond funds. In the week to May 6 a net $3.6 billion moved into various emerging stock funds. Money market (cash) funds saw outflows of $1.6 billion.

State Street says there has been a “sea change” in investor behaviour. In April cross-border flows that it tracks suggested the most risk-seeking investment regime since May 2008.  “Institutions are buying emerging markets aggressively, adding to entrenched positions in Latin America and diversifying into emerging Asia,” it says.

– It is all obvious from the front end of the financial sector’s credit default swaps, according to Royal Bank of Scotland’s Alan Ruskin. Essentially, the hyper-stress is easing. “If financials grease the wheel that is the real economy, it is easy to see where the equity ebullience has come from,” Ruskin says.

– Merrill Lynch’s Global Wealth Management says it is still worth putting all this in context. “Equities are still 30 percent below the levels ruling on the eve of Lehman’s collapse.  Some European markets have suffered much deeper falls. Implied default rates in the corporate bond markets are still more pessimistic than the worst experience in seventy years,” it tells its clients.

from MacroScope:

Hey Europe, stop acting so happy

Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg's views are well-known for bearing no resemblance to his firm's trademark bull, so when he says European clients seem too upbeat, what he really means is they weren't thoroughly depressed. The New York-based economist just got back from a marketing trip across the Atlantic and didn't find much common ground.

In particular, he said European clients seemed more concerned about inflation than the deflation that he sees coming, and they may have unrealistically high expectations for President Barack Obama.

"Unbelievably ... portfolio managers seem to think they are taking a bigger risk with their careers by missing the rallies than by missing the sell-offs," he wrote in a note to clients. "I can tell you that this is not a condition from a sentiment standpoint that terminates bear markets."

End of carry trade unwind?

Merrill Lynch’s monthly poll of fund managers around the world has a bit of a surprise in the small print. More investors now reckon the Japanese yen is overvalued than see it as undervalued. This is the first time this has been the case since Merrill began asking the question, said by staff to be about eight years ago.

It clearly reflects a 13 percent dive in dollar/yen this year and a 24 percent plunge in euro/yen. But does the new view of value suggest that the unwinding of the carry trade is over? Another question from the Merrill poll shows hedge fund deleveraging levelling off.

Tick, tock to global recession?

Every month, Merrill Lynch asks a few hundred fund managers around the world what they think of the state of things. Not surprisingly, this month’s survey is probably the gloomiest yet. Everyone, says Gary Baker, the strategist charged with explaining the poll, is a macro bear suffering from hyper risk-aversion.

Of particular note for readers of Macroscope this time is the finding that 84 percent of fund managers, more than four in five, say it is likely that the global economy will experience recession over the next 12 clock.jpgmonths. It is actually possible that the figure is greater than that, given the question’s definition of recession as two quarters of negative real GDP growth. That definition is fine for countries, but for the global economy it is a bit nebulous.

At least one should hope so. According to the International Monetary Fund, global GDP should end up having grown 3.9 percent at the end of this year and drop to 3.0 percent in 2009. Blistering growth in places like China may cool, but is still likely to keep the world economy in growth. So many fund managers may have been considering a less specific definition of global recession. The IMF informally used to think of it as below 3 percent growth, for example, but is not so keen on this now.

Views on the Fed, Merrill and future for Wall Street investment banks

merrill.jpgThe Wall Street investment banking model is being tested. No, it’s broken. No, it’s been broken for a while and the bailout of Bear Stearns and the demise of Lehman show that it’s on the mend…

Views are coming in from across the spectrum as financial world commentators join the markets and try to piece together what the busy weekend on Wall Street will mean for stocks and the shape of the financial services industry.

Thestreet.com’s voluble Jim Cramer declares: “Nobody from the Fed has gotten ahead of this problem.” How can the Federal Reserve not cut interest rates “right now?”

Merrill Lynch is seventh largest bank acquisition ever

Bank of America’s planned $44.3 billion acquisition of Merrill Lynch is the seventh largest bank acquisition ever announced, according to Thomson Reuters Deals Intelligence.  Bank of America is the fourth largest bank globally and the top US bank with a market value of US$153.9 billion.

In the big picture: M&A targeting of the banking sector has reached $187.2 billion so far in 2008. Activity in the third quarter stands at a 5 quarter high of $87.3 billion.

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–Research from Matthew Toole, Daily Deals Insight