BlackRock reports that investors are saying they’re risk averse while piling back into stocks.
As recently as last summer and fall, respondents to BlackRock’s Global Investor Pulse Survey indicated that they held nearly half of their portfolio in cash and intended to increase that exposure over the coming year. More recent surveys tell a similar story.
But despite perceptions that investors hold a lot of cash and are still quite risk averse, my team’s analysis of the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) latest data on household financial assets suggests a somewhat different reality.
According to the Fed’s data, the share of household financial assets devoted to cash and highly-rated government bonds has been drifting lower since the end of the financial crisis and has actually fallen below the long-run average.
Meanwhile, the same Fed data also show that investors have steadily moved into ever riskier investments, especially during the recent equity bull market. Americans now hold the largest percentage of their financial assets in stocks, corporate bonds and mutual funds – a loose proxy for exposure to riskier investments – since the third quarter of 2000, near the height of the tech bubble.
The percentage of investors’ financial assets in such riskier investments is now 34.9%, just shy of the highest exposure to risky assets since the 1950s – 38.4% in the first quarter of 2000.