ESG is no passing fad, as more investors are convinced that alpha can be found in ESG and regulators continue to introduce rules to lift ESG standards.
Global fund managers polled by Merrill Lynch still favour the US, where the consensus shows they are most overweight. They are also overweight in global emerging markets and in Japan, albeit to a lesser degree. They are still averse to the Eurozone, where the consensus underweight is the heaviest since July 2003.
Sector-wise, global fund managers favour resources and technology and are most bearish about banks and consumer stocks. Merrill Lynch stresses, however, that global exposure to resources remains subdued and is way below the highs in 2002 and 2006.
Cash positions have risen as risk aversion persists. MayÆs poll shows a net 32% of the respondents are overweight on cash, which is higher than the net 24% last month but still significantly lower than the record high of net 42% in March. Merrill Lynch, which conducts the survey through research group Taylor Nelson Sofres, measures net responses by taking the balance between the bullish and bearish views for each survey question.
The average cash position of the respondents this month is 4.1%, stable compared with 4.2% last month.
Fund managers that invest in global emerging markets û as opposed to those who invest in both developed and emerging markets û are less pessimistic than they were in the last two months. A net 58% expect corporate profits to slip over the next 12 months, down from a record net 77% in March and 67% last month.
For the fourth straight month, Asia is the least preferred emerging market among the global emerging market fund managers. February was the first time Asia fell out of favour in the survey.
Global emerging market fund managers are most bullish about Russia, Thailand, Brazil and Turkey û the same four markets they favoured last month. They are most bearish about Chile, South Africa, Taiwan, and India. They are most overweight on consumer discretionaries, telecommunications and energy; and most underweight on utilities, technology and healthcare.
In its second annual sustainable investment report, the sovereign wealth fund says it invested $1.79bn in ESG bonds. Experts say asset owners next need to consolidate their standards.
Senior executives at the Taiwan financial group and Canadian pension fund believe that companies have to make an ESG transition, and may not have a choice in a few years.
Record low borrowing costs in Australia are feeding demand for the country's real estate, with domestic and global investors raising their allocations into the sector.
Experts have a diversified view on the appeal of private assets across the region, but one thing's for certain - inflows are rising, particularly into China and the US.