An investor looks at a stock quote screen near the end of the trading day in a brokerage in Shanghai, China. (Photographer: Kevin Lee/Bloomberg News)

Global Recession Fear Is Suddenly Stalking the Credit Market

(Bloomberg) -- The risk of a global recession has surged to the top of the worry list for credit investors even as they push down their cash balances to snap up new-year issuance, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest survey of European money managers.

Almost 30 percent of respondents to the bank’s poll cited a worldwide economic slump as their largest concern, the strongest consensus for any single risk since June 2017. No one cited rising bond yields or higher inflation as their top worry, while only 2 percent said it was Brexit, according to analysts led by Barnaby Martin.

Global Recession Fear Is Suddenly Stalking the Credit Market

European investors have been piling into credit so far this year, adding corporate hybrids, insurance and subordinated bank debt alongside defensive positions in utilities, according to BAML. That’s pushed cash allocations down to 3.5 percent and left a majority of investment-grade money managers feeling that spreads are too tight, the bank said.

Investors are also skeptical that another round of cheap central bank funding for European lenders from the ECB will provide much of a boost -- they reckon the policy has been so well signaled that it’s now priced in. Even so, almost a quarter of respondents expect tighter senior bank spreads as a result.

About 40 percent of clients argue that stimulus in China is key to getting the euro zone out of trouble by supporting German exports. The Asian nation made its biggest-ever monthly liquidity injection into the economy in January, but its impact is questionable because of debt levels in China, according to the analysts.

BAML polls clients including banks, insurance companies, pension funds, asset managers and hedge funds every two months for its credit investor survey. There were 58 participants in the latest edition.

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