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Investors rush into bonds in record numbers as global economic outlook falls to worst in 10 years

Key Points
  • "This month's survey [found] the biggest ever one-month rotation into the asset class" of bonds, Bank of America Merrill Lynch says.
  • The monthly report is one of the most widely followed surveys of investors on Wall Street.
  • Investors cited a trade war as the biggest concern for the seventh consecutive month.
Traders and financial professionals work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the opening bell, October 25, 2018 in New York City.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Investors are fleeing stocks and buying bonds in record numbers amid the global sell-off in equities, according to a December survey of fund managers released on Tuesday.

"Investors are approaching extreme bearishness. ... This month's survey [found] the biggest ever one-month rotation into the asset class" of bonds, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in the survey. The research report is one of the most widely followed surveys of investors on Wall Street.

Additionally, the report found that more than half of investors expect global economic growth to weaken over the next year. That's "the worst outlook on the global economy since Oct. 2008," the survey said.

Investors cited a trade war as the biggest concern for the seventh consecutive month. Worsening economic conditions in China was another top risk.

For the first time in nearly a year, the FAANG trade "is no longer the most crowded trade" by investors, the report said. The five FAANG stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet — are currently in or near bear markets. Investors are replacing the FAANG trade by going long the U.S. dollar, as well a shorting emerging markets.

Bank of America's report comes as U.S. stocks are headed toward a historically bad December. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the are on pace for the worst December performance since the Great Depression.

Despite the expectations for slowing global economic growth, most do not think there will be a recession in 2019. Only 9 percent of those surveyed expect an actually recession next year.

The survey was conducted Dec. 7 to 13, with 243 investors answering questions. That group has nearly $700 billion under management.

In another survey of fund managers released Tuesday, Bank of America Merrill Lynch also found that shares of technology giants have fallen out of favor, replaced by bets on the U.S. dollar as the most crowded trade.