World Markets

Despite geopolitical risks, TD Ameritrade customers display optimism

Grace Thong and Nurhanisa Kunhimohamed
The flight to safety

Given geopolitical tension over Syria and North Korea, and uncertainty over the future of the European Union, many investors could be inclined to take a cautious approach.

But some are surprisingly optimistic, according to the latest survey by TD Ameritrade. The Investor Movement Index monitors investing behavior, and the takeaway from the March version found that spirits are higher than might be expected.

"Our customers are very optimistic," Christopher Brankin, CEO of TD Ameritrade Asia told CNBC's "Street Signs," explaining that his customers are still actively adding net new buys to their accounts.

According to Brankin, even though TD Ameritrade customers are optimistic looking ahead to the next three months, they're not sticking their heads in the sand.

"Investors and traders alike have two eyes, not one eye, on what's going on around Syria, and what's going on around the Korean Peninsula," he said.

And when they're not watching those hot spots, they're looking for the traditional safety plays: gold and bonds. But he said he expected the U.S. earnings season to drive for investor behavior more than anything else, with TD Ameritrade customers joining the rush back into energy.

"ExxonMobil is still one of the larger kind of net new buys for our customer base at TD Ameritrade," he said. "Not only expecting potential earnings growth, stock growth and still getting a decent yield."

Chesapeake Energy is also a new buy, on a diverse list that includes Snap, Nvidia, and Advanced Micro Devices — even though the latter stock reached a 52-week high in early March.

As they picked up those stocks, TD Ameritrade customers dumped shares in companies ranging from heavy machinery to e-commerce.

"One of the largest net sold positions that our customer base had last month, was Caterpillar," Brankin said, citing concerns about the move of the company's headquarters to Chicago from Peoria, Illinois. He added that other net new sells included Disney and Alibaba, which hit and neared 52-week highs, respectively.

Brankin said TD Ameritrade customers were also looking at getting exposure to some of the big banks, with JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo out with earnings on Thursday. They've also increased activity around XLF, the financial ETF.

"You know, I think we could see that next leg higher in the markets, especially around the financials," Brankin said. "A big part of that will set the tone of what we'll see later on in the week."