One of the big investment shifts of our day may be at hand — regardless of how global markets actually perform this year.
What's already known as the "The Great Rotation" — a tilting of pension and insurance funds' strategic, long-term asset preference back toward equity from extreme positioning in bonds — has been one of themes of the new year so far.
The gist of the argument is that investor holdings of now expensive, ultra-low yielding government debt — following a virtually unbroken 20-year bull market in bonds — are ripe for rebalancing. The attraction of relative and absolute valuations in equity will coax the outflow to stocks.
It's this juncture that has some of the most persistent global equity bears of the past two decades, such as Societe Generale strategist Albert Edwards, rethinking the big picture.
While there's little thaw evident in his view of an investment "Ice Age" over the next couple of years, Edwards now reckons that over 10 years long-term institutional funds are in danger of missing "the cheapest equity prices in a generation."
From such a committed bear, that's really saying something.
And there are no shortage of shorter-term players hoping to catch the slipstream whenever it comes. Some feel there's no time like the present.
With the whiff of global economic recovery in the air as major central banks floor cash rates, buy bonds and neutralize systemic stability fears, mutual fund and retail investment flows are already on the move in 2013
According to Lipper, net flows to U.S.-based equity funds in the first two weeks of 2013 was, at $11.3 billion, the biggest fortnightly inflow since April 2000 — including exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the number tops $18 billion — well over twice the flow to equivalent bond funds.
What's more, fund-tracker EPFR said some $7 billion of inflows to emerging market equities alone in the first week of the year were the biggest on record and these have outstripped demand for emerging bond funds five weeks running.