The World’s Largest Wealth Manager Just Turned Bearish on Stocks

UBS Global Wealth Management, which oversees more than $2.48 trillion in invested assets, has gone underweight on equities for the first time since the euro-zone crisis.

The Swiss asset manager cut its stock positioning relative to high-grade bonds to reduce its exposure to trade wars and political uncertainty, Global Chief Investment Officer Mark Haefele wrote in a note to investors.

“Risks to the global economy and markets have increased, following a renewed escalation in U.S.-China trade tensions,” said Haefele, who had so far resisted turning bearish on stocks since the world’s two biggest economies began their trade feud last year. U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last Friday to increase tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods to 30% from 25% prompted the downgrade.

The change factors in a new underweight position in emerging market stocks, which “are more exposed to heightened market volatility, a slowing global economy, and heightened trade tensions,” Haefele wrote. Earlier this month, the bank more than halved its 2019 earnings forecast for Asia to 2.8% from 6.3%, and said Taiwan and Korea will likely bear the brunt of the slowdown due to their reliance on trade and technology.

Haefele cautioned “against large equity underweights” and maintained his view that the U.S. can avoid a recession in 2020. And not everyone is ready to throw in the towel on stocks yet.

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