Ignoring the drumbeat?

Reuters released its February asset allocation polls today, showing an ever so slight increase in average holdings of stocks. The signficiance, however, was not in the small increase but in the fact that there was no decrease. February has not been kind to riskier investments, with a drumbeat of poor economic news combining with new fears about banks to send global stocks to fresh six-year lows.

Dig inside the various polls — they come from the United States, Britain, Japan and continental Europe — and you find different moods. Three-quarters of U.S. managers polled, for example, made no change at all in their allocations over the month. Europeans, meanwhile, are so gun shy that they are holding more than twice as much cash as their long-term average. Japanese investors were a bit more optimistic than a month earlier, apparently because fears of deep trouble in China are easing.

What it all says is that investors are generally sticking to the sidelines, but are not being particulary spooked by continuing bad news. So is that the bottom? Or maybe familiarity breeds contempt?

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