Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bond Funds And Central Banks Are Buying Equities

Morningstar recently reported the number of bond funds buying or holding stocks is at the highest level in 18 years. The below chart from Charles Schwab details data over the last ten years. Schwab/Morningstar note the percentage of bond funds holding equities has remained stable over this time period though. Nonetheless, more bond funds are buying equities in an effort to find higher yielding securities than currently available from bonds.

From The Blog of HORAN Capital Advisors

In addition to bond funds jumping into dividend yielding stocks, Schwab reported the following from a survey of the central banks around the globe:
"Last month, Central Bank Publications and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc conducted a survey of 60 central bankers. Nearly 25% of respondents said they own stock shares or plan to buy them. The Bank of Japan, featured heavily in the news recently and holder of the world's second-largest level of reserves, said it will more than double investments in stock exchange-traded funds by 2014. The Bank of Israel bought stocks for the first time last year, and the Swiss National Bank and Czech National Bank have upped their holdings to at least 10% of reserves.

Of the 60 banks surveyed, 14 said they'd already invested in stocks or would do so within five years. In fact, this is the first time ever the question about stocks has been in this annual survey.

Behind the heightened interest in stocks are growing central-bank reserves requiring increased diversification. In US dollar terms, the four largest central banks have expanded their balance sheets to more than $13 trillion, compared to only $3 trillion 10 years ago. Most central banks have had heavy and consistent reliance on fixed-income securities, but with yields low (and falling) in many countries, keeping all reserves in fixed income risks a declining value of reserves.

However, 70% of the central banks in the survey (including the US Federal Reserve) indicated that stocks remain "beyond the pale." A few central banks, including the Fed and the Bank of England, have no mandate to purchase stocks directly.

Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, weighed in: 'I don't think people should worry about (central banks owning stocks). Frankly, it makes a huge amount of sense in a world of floating exchange rates and such incredible opportunity, why should central banks keep so much money in very short-term, liquid things when they're not going to ever need it?'"

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