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Prodigal returns?

Earlier this week we examined DFMs' cautious allocations and we pondered the fact that the average UK equity exposure was about the same as the average US equity exposure.

Another peek now reveals European equity funds account for just 1.2 per cent of the holdings in cautious mandates, with a large number of firms, including Brooks Macdonald and Tacit among the firms with no allocation at all. 

M&G Wealth has the largest allocation, at 2.5 per cent, followed by LGIM at 2.1 per cent. 

Like UK equities, European equities are of course a value investment market. 

Value kept us all waiting a decade to perform then, no sooner had it started to put a smile on the faces of our diversified portfolios, it vanished with growth regaining the upper hand in the third quarter of this year.

But the latest European fund manager survey from Bank of America indicates that investors are starting to revise their expectations around a return to prominence of the value factor, despite the present elevated levels of economic uncertainty. 

The survey found 30 per cent of respondents expect value to do better than growth over the  next 12 months - an increase on the 10 per cent who held that view last month.

And the way they expect the value trade to play out has also changed, with insurance stocks now the largest overweight sector, replacing pharma which was the largest in October. 

The survey also showed a generally positive attitude towards equities for 2023, with 59 per cent expecting European equities to outperform, the highest proportion holding this view for six months. 

Key to their thoughts is the expectation that inflation will fall sharply next year, though the bad news for markets is they expect inflation will fall due to "demand destruction". In other words, we're walking right into a recession.

This will of course cause incomes to fall and therefore prices to drop.

That view is held by 95 per cent of respondents, and so is as close to a consensus as one could find.

It may be that some sectors, including insurance and pharma, are defensive and value at the same time, and so may help square what is perhaps the most difficult of circles faced by asset allocators.  

But there seems to be a feeling that a recession will be over relatively quickly, with growth slightly higher in the coming months than previously feared as a result of energy prices starting to decline. 

That equates to 20 per cent of respondents feeling that growth will tick upwards - an increase on the 5 per cent who held that view last month.

And while the number expecting the European economy to weaken over the next 12 months is elevated at 78 per cent, it's actually lower than the 95 per cent who held that view last month.

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