Should Global Investor Confidence Really Still Be Shrinking?

Print Email

With 2017 coming to an end, and with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up roughly 25% and the S&P 500 Index up about 20% in 2017, many investors are looking for outlooks and opinions for how to position themselves in 2018. We are seeing higher and higher strategist forecast hikes for 2018. But with the market hitting new high after new high, shouldn’t investor confidence be off the charts?

State Street has released its own Investor Confidence Index, which measures the global risk tolerance of institutional investors. The North American component may matter to U.S. investors more than the combined views of managers from North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

The December 26 release showed a 1.5 point drop in the index to 94.8. That marks the fifth straight decline after a serious peak in July.

North America’s drop was 6.2 points, down to 94.9. There was a drop of 2.8 points Asia to 94.8, but the European regional index rose 16 points to 96.9.

State Street explains what the barometers mean:

A reading of 100 is neutral; it is the level at which investors are neither increasing nor decreasing their long-term allocations to risky assets. The index differs from survey-based measures in that it is based on the actual trades, as opposed to opinions, of institutional investors.

A combined State Street quote from the December 26 release said:

After peaking in July this year, investor confidence has now fallen for five consecutive months; the last three of which have seen investors reduce their holdings of risky assets (an index reading below 100). While the broader economic outlook appears increasingly rosy, as captured by measures of consumer and business confidence, the more cautious nature of investors hints at a concern that financial markets may have already discounted much of the good news. … In Europe, healthy growth and continued ECB asset purchases may have helped to boost investor confidence. Although the index remains below 100, it seems that European-based investors are becoming less concerned that political risks could derail the strong economic performance across the region.

While some skeptics might think this means that overall confidence is weak, keep in mind that this not exactly a survey of attitudes. It measures changes in positions of institutional holdings in equities, and equities are considered the “risk assets” when you consider the guarantee offered by bonds. The index measures investor confidence or risk appetite quantitatively by analyzing the actual buying and selling patterns of institutional investors.