A survey of fund managers conducted by HSBC has found a growing number are underweight equities.

"Fund managers have become less bullish on equities compared to the past few months," says Bruno Lee, regional head of wealth management for Asia-Pacific at HSBC.

The survey was conducted among managers on HSBC's platform, including AllianceBernstein, Allianz Global Investors, Barings, BlackRock, Fidelity, Franklin Templeton, HSBC Global Asset Management, Invesco, Investec, JP Morgan Asset Management, Prudential Asset Management, Schroders and Société Générale.

Their aggregate funds under management as of the end of March was $3.82 trillion, of which 40% was in equity funds, 28% in bond funds and 19% in money-market funds. This pool of managers saw aggregate AUM grow by $35 billion over the first quarter, with most of the flows going to bond funds, net outflows from money markets and a modest inflow to equity funds.

Although the US was the dominant geography for both equity and bond funds, Asia-Pacific made up one-fifth of equity products. Asia-Pacific ex-Japan and Greater China products enjoyed continued net inflows, but at a slower pace than in the fourth quarter of 2009.

HSBC says the weak flows to equity funds worldwide reflects concerns that the Greek debt crisis could derail a global recovery. US bond funds were the biggest gainer of inflows in the first quarter.

Among HSBC's third-party managers, 20% now report being underweight equities, and the other 80% report an even split between neutral and overweight positions. This is a marked change from December, when no manager reported being underweight equities.

Most managers are neutral with regard to bond holdings and underweight cash.

Over half of fund managers report being underweight Europe, including UK equities, but most are neutral or overweight US equities. No one is underweight US dollar bonds, while most managers are overweight global emerging-market bonds and high-yield bonds.

"Three in four fund managers are bullish on emerging-market equities for the second quarter," says Lee. "The majority hold a neutral view towards Asia-Pacific ex-Japan equities."