‘Irrational exuberance’ hits record high among fund managers despite lofty valuations

Key Points
  • Though investors think that stocks are too expensive, they are still pushing money into those equities
  • This indicates that investors believe markets will continue to rise despite these lofty valuations
Traders gather for the IPO of Singapore-based Sea Limited on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., October 20, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Appetite for risk has increased among money managers to a new high, according to the latest fund manager survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BoAML).

A total of 16 percent of investors said they are taking above normal levels of risk when choosing where to put their money, even though 48 percent of respondents said that equities were overvalued.

"Icarus is flying ever closer to the sun and investors' risk-taking has hit an all-time high," Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BoAML, said in a statement Tuesday, borrowing a phrase from Greek mythology.

"A record high percentage of investors say equities are overvalued yet cash levels are simultaneously falling, an indicator of irrational exuberance," he added.

This means that though investors think that stocks are too expensive, they are still pushing money into those equities, which indicates that they think markets will continue to rise despite these lofty valuations.

Markets focused on top line trajectory, hence share price correction: Standard Chartered CFO

The survey also showed that a decreasing number of investors were protecting themselves against a market correction. The survey, released Tuesday, included answers from 178 fund managers with a total of $533 billion of assets under management.

Lack of interest in UK stocks

Meanwhile, more and more fund managers do not see benefits of investing in U.K. equities, the survey said. 37 percent of those surveyed said to be "underweight" on the market — a low not seen since during the financial crisis of 2008.

Twenty-three percent of respondents had an "overweight" rating on Japanese equities, the highest level seen in the last two years.

"Global fund managers see the profit outlook in Japan as favorable amid a strong earnings season," Shusuke Yamada, chief Japan FX/equity strategist at BoAML, said in a statement.

"Investors continue to see Japan equities as undervalued relative to other markets and say they want to overweight Japan for the next 12 months," he added.