Wealthy investors and business owners around the globe have become more optimistic about the global economy and global stock markets following the market rout in the fourth quarter, according to the latest Investor Sentiment survey from UBS.
Roughly half the wealthy investors surveyed were optimistic about the global economy (51%) and global stocks (49%), and even more (60%) were optimistic about their own economies, but their cash levels were high — exceeding 30% in all regions but the U.S., where they were 23%.
Business owners were even more bullish than wealthy investors, which UBS defines as having at least $1 million in investable assets. Sixty-two percent of business owners were optimistic about the global economy while 68% were optimistic about their own region’s economy and 74% were bullish on the outlook for their own businesses. The business owners surveyed had at least $250,000 in annual revenue and at least one employee in addition to themselves.
UBS surveyed more than 3,600 investors and business owners in 17 countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the U.S. in mid- to late March. No percentage breakdown was given between investors and business owners or between regions, but a spokesman said “the representation of individual regions in the final global survey results is proportional to the percentage of global wealth that they control.”
In the U.S., which controls roughly one-third of the world’s wealth, investors were substantially more positive about the domestic economy (56%) than the global economy (37%). That was not the case for other regions where the responses were roughly even divided between the global and domestic outlooks. As a result, UBS notes that U.S. investors exhibit “the biggest risk of home bias” and “this home bias could hurt returns going forward. U.S. stocks are priced in line with long-term averages, but international equity markets are more cheaply valued.”
The relatively pricey U.S. stock market may explain why the U.S. is the least popular destination for global investors who plan to increase their investments. According to the UBS survey, 42% of global investors plan to invest more, but only 26% expect to invest in the U.S. versus 54% who plan to invest in Asia and 66% who favor Latin America.
U.S. investors were more concerned about national politics (56%) than all other regions except Latin America, where that concern was even greater (63%). U.S. investors also worried about national debt (49%) and health care costs (39%), which also were a top concern of Swiss investors and U.S. business owners (56%).
A global trade war made the top three concerns list for investors in Asia and Europe but not the U.S., and cybersecurity was a key concern for European investors and business owners and U.S. business owners but not U.S. investors.
Close to half the U.S. business owners included taxes as a key concern, even though corporate taxes were cut sharply in the 2017 tax legislation.
In addition to its Global Wealth Management survey, UBS also reported that its 100% sustainable portfolio now has more than $5 billion in assets. The multi-asset investment includes World Bank and other development bank bonds instead of government debt as well as other equity and bond allocations.