Avoid Being Over Defensive on Virus Fear, Fidelity Veteran Warns

(Bloomberg) -- With money gushing into cash funds and the most secure asset classes amid the Covid-19 pandemic, one seasoned equities veteran has warned investors about the risk of becoming too defensive.

“The stock market won’t wait for things to get better,” said Anthony Bolton, a portfolio manager for more than four decades and now a senior adviser and board member of Fidelity Investments International. His top recommendation is that investors avoid the trap of adopting an overly cautious stance, he said on a call Thursday.

The comments come as risk assets are being shunned amid concerns about the pandemic’s impact on economic growth. Recent data showed investors are plowing much more into cash than into bond funds or equities, while defensive sectors like health care and utilities are the year’s top performers. But with stocks still well below their February peaks despite rebounding from their March lows, Bolton feels investors need to consider the longer-term picture.

“The question you have to ask yourself is ‘am I happy to buy at today’s prices?’” said the 70-year-old Bolton, who ran Fidelity’s U.K.-focused special situations fund for 28 years until 2007. “There is this temptation to always keep waiting to get a better chance. But you might not. I think you have got to make a decision that if this price level is attractive on a longer term basis, then it’s an opportunity to buy.”

Bolton’s advice is to focus less on the economic outlook and more on valuation levels and investors’ behavior and risk appetite.

“Those were the reasons in early 2009 where I became quite positive about the outlook,” he said, referring to the aftermath of the financial crisis. “It had much more to do with stock market cycles then it was do to with a specific economic view of the future.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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