Fund managers increased cash holdings, BoAML survey finds, amid volatile markets

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Ructions in global equities and droopy commodities markets have spurred big investors to increase holdings in the safest asset of them all: cash.

Investors' average cash balances climbed to 5.4 percent, the third-highest level since 2009, Bank of America Merrill Lynch's latest fund manager survey showed on Thursday.

The increase in cash holdings was part of a broader move by investors to reduce holdings of assets perceived to be risky, such as emerging market equities and bank stocks, and instead buy assets considered safer.

Stock markets around the world have had a soggy start to 2016 as concerns over an economic slowdown in China, as well as the country's botched response to temper market volatility, were exacerbated by a slump in oil prices to the lowest level in more than a decade.

These developments kindled fears that the global economic recovery might stutter, just a month after the Federal Reserve lifted interest rates for the first time in more than nine years.

The survey showed a sharp decline in global economic growth expectations, although for now, only 12 percent of respondents believed that a global recession was likely in the next 12 months.

Most participants said the Fed was likely to lift interest rates only twice this year, compared with the Fed's own indication of four increases in 2016.

According to the survey participants, the largest tail risk was a recession in China, followed by an emerging market debt crisis and geopolitics.

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