Crystal Ball

Fund managers pick cash over cautious companies


Fund managers have put more of their assets into cash than at any time since July 2012, as they tire of companies that refuse to invest their own money in expanding their business and the economy, according to a new survey.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) February poll showed that fund managers are reluctant to part with their cash while companies are "under-investing," and nearly eight out of 10 investors are predicting below-trend growth over the coming year.

(Read more: When will it be time to buy back into emerging markets?)

Adam Gault | Digital Vision | Getty Images

Some 69 percent of fund managers are unhappy with the level of cash companies are spending, up 2 percent from last month's record of 67 percent. Cash levels jumped from 4.5 percent to 4.8 percent, which the bank said was an unambiguous "buy" signal for risk assets.

At the same time, BofAML said the survey uncovered a "complete reversal" out of emerging markets -- which were now seen as the "biggest risk to financial market stability" – and back into banks.

"In the wake of the global financial crisis, banks were unloved and GEM were portfolio darlings. The reversal in sentiment between these two investments appears complete this month," said , Michael Hartnett , chief investment strategist at BofAML Global Research.

2014 hedge fund report card

(Read more: Will China be the 'savior' of emerging markets?)

"While allocations to GEM (global emerging markets) reached a record low, allocations to banks by respondents to the global survey have reached a record high. A net 28 percent said they are overweight banks, a significant swing since January when a net 16 percent were overweight," he said.

Along with banks, investors are more upbeat about Europe than ever before as a net 40 percent of fund managers say the region is their preferred overweight.

(Read more: The 'dog funds' messing up investors)

The online and telephone survey polled 222 fund managers with a total of $591 billion of assets under management.

By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave