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IPE Views: Growth will be everywhere, just not where I am

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The CFA Institute’s latest survey once again shows that even investment professionals are not immune to behavioural economics

The latest version of the CFA Institute’s Global Market Sentiment Survey once again shows how even investment professionals are susceptible to the clear callings of behavioural economics.

The survey, conducted by more than 6,000 of the institute’s members worldwide, found positive sentiment was on the up in all regions.

Some 63% of the financial analysts who took part in the survey were swayed by positive market reactions in 2013, and said 2014 would see the global economy expand.

Now, while this sentiment from many of Europe’s, and the world’s, pension fund advisers is very positive, there are elements to the collective thought process that are concerning.

High above any other is the sentiment for one’s own home market. For all regions, including the aggregate of local sentiment, the percentage of respondents suggesting their local economy would grow in 2014 fell in comparison.

While a common British saying – the grass is always greener on the other side – may explain the respondents’ thought process, it does not excuse it.

As 63% remained optimistic, there is also the one-third of respondents that said weak economic growth and conditions were still the biggest risk to investments.

Some 71% of the respondents – 61 percentage points higher than any other asset class – also feel equities will provide the highest returns in 2014.

The majority of respondents said they anticipated a financial bubble being created in their local markets over 2014. However, they expectedly split on deciding where. Asia Pacific was the exception, where 52% said the bubble would be created in real estate.

All of this gives an insight into the effects that undue optimism, market crowding, sentiment following and disregard for the absence of fundamentals and facts can have on investors.

The expected growth in equities is the most concerning, possibly due to the fact that what we are seeing in markets is what we have all seen before.

With 71% of advisers believing equity markets will grow, investors will duly allocate swathes of finance towards the asset class.

However, taking the UK stock market, for example, its high this year is still 85 points below its previous 6865.86 high seen in 1999, at the height of the dot.com bubble.

Many market commentators have suggested that high will be trodden into the past as the FTSE breaks the 7,000 mark later this year, or even the 7,500 mark.

However, among all of this, and among the respondents to the survey, is the sometimes reckless approach to being sucked into positivity, and this is positivity without basis.

The UK economy is still smaller than its peak in 2007, as is much of Europe. Yet equity markets in both the UK and the euro-zone are on full alert for allocations, with almost little consideration for how companies will react to inevitable rate rises.

As long-term investors, pension funds should try and avoid being swept up in market sentiment, and be wary of bubbles.

If sentiment cannot collectively show where growth will come from, then sentiment should not be dictating allocations.

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