Northern Trust Survey: Strengthening Economy Boosts Investment Manager Optimism

Investment managers grew more optimistic about the U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2013, as positive expectations for housing, jobs and corporate profits outweighed concerns about the impact of across-the-board federal budget cuts that went into effect on March 1, according to a quarterly survey by Northern Trust.

A majority of the approximately 100 investment managers surveyed in mid-March expect the automatic budget cuts to remain in place through the end of the quarter and more than one in three (37 percent) believe Washington D.C.’s spending reductions will have a negative impact on U.S. equity markets. However, 56 percent said sequestration would have a neutral impact on markets, and the vast majority of investment managers – 96% – forecast that the economic effects will either be in line with or less severe than current economic forecasts of a 1 percent reduction or less in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

Significantly, the survey found investment managers were increasingly optimistic about U.S. economic fundamentals:

  • 88% expect housing prices to increase over the next six months – the highest reading since the survey began in the third quarter of 2008.
  • 91% see corporate earnings either remaining the same or increasing over the next three months, while only 9 percent expect profits to decline – down from 32% who had a negative view in the fourth quarter of 2012.
  • 38% expect job growth to accelerate in the next six months – up from 27% who had that view at the end of 2012.
  • 46% say U.S. economic growth will accelerate over the next six months, up from 33% with that view in the fourth quarter. Only 11% think GDP growth will slow over the next six months, down from 21% last quarter.

“Investment managers appear to be looking past Washington’s budgetary gridlock and expect the economy to continue to improve,” said Chris Vella, Chief Investment Officer for Northern Trust Multi-Manager Investments. “The positive sentiment of the managers surveyed over the past few quarters gives perspective to the stock market’s recent gains. Manager expectations for key economic indicators provides a basis of support for the highs reached by U.S. equity indexes.”

The first quarter survey found some reason for caution, as more managers saw the U.S. equity markets becoming fully valued and anticipated that economic growth could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Twenty-eight percent of managers said the S&P 500 Index was overvalued – more than double the number who held that view in the previous quarter. Those who believe the S&P 500 is undervalued fell to 37 percent – down from 50 percent in the previous quarter. On interest rates, 35 percent of managers expect an increase in the next three months – double the amount as in the fourth quarter of 2012. Managers also ranked a change in the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy as the number-two risk to equities, just behind the European debt crisis.

“These caution flags are not surprising, given the recent strong performance in equities that has pushed market indexes to new highs,” said Mark Meisel, Senior Investment Product Specialist of the Multi-Manager Investments group, who oversees the survey. “While they are monitoring these potential headwinds, however, managers continue to identify investment opportunities in U.S. equities as well as Japan and the emerging markets.”

Other details from the fourth quarter survey include:

  • 57% of managers believe the Japanese equity market is undervalued, up from 45% who had that view in the previous survey.
  • 62% are bullish on emerging market equities, up from 59% last quarter.
  • 64% report a bullish outlook on the U.S. industrial sector, up from 52% last quarter.
  • 58% are bullish U.S. small caps, up from 50% last quarter.

For more details, please see the full Northern Trust Investment Manager Survey Report at www.northerntrust.com/managersurvey. For its survey, Northern Trust polls investment firms that participate in its multi-manager investment programs and funds. The select group of respondents includes fixed income and equity managers across value and growth styles, with a bias toward fundamental, bottom-up stock picking strategies. The survey is conducted quarterly so that Northern Trust and participating managers can examine trends in attitudes and allocations.

Northern Trust is a leading provider of multi-manager investment solutions, with more than $38.6 billion under management as of December 31, 2012, for institutional and personal clients. Northern Trust invests with more than 200 external managers worldwide, offering personal and institutional solutions that include retail mutual funds, alternative asset classes, emerging manager programs and total investment program management.

Asset Management at Northern Trust begins with listening and leads to answers beyond the expected for our clients. The multi-asset class investment management business is comprised of Northern Trust Investments, Inc., Northern Trust Global Investments Limited, Northern Trust Global Investments Japan, K.K., the investment advisor division of The Northern Trust Company and The Northern Trust Company of Connecticut and its subsidiaries which offer investment products and services to personal and institutional markets.

About Northern Trust

Northern Trust Corporation (Nasdaq: NTRS) is a leading provider of investment management, asset and fund administration, banking solutions and fiduciary services for corporations, institutions and affluent individuals worldwide. Northern Trust, a financial holding company based in Chicago, has offices in 18 U.S. states and 16 international locations in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. As of December 31, 2012, Northern Trust had assets under custody of US$4.8 trillion, and assets under investment management of US$758.9 billion. For more than 120 years, Northern Trust has earned distinction as an industry leader in combining exceptional service and expertise with innovative products and technology. For more information, visit www.northerntrust.com or follow us on Twitter @NorthernTrust.

Contacts:

Northern Trust Corporation
Media Contacts
John O’Connell
312-444-2388
John_O'Connell@ntrs.com
Bailey Madden
312-557-1314
Bailey_Madden@ntrs.com
http://www.northerntrust.com
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