June 16, 2020 / 9:55 PM / 25 days ago

U.S. investors fear another market drop, cool on hedge funds: new data

BOSTON (Reuters) - Investors who lived through this year’s historic market sell-off only to see stocks bounce higher say they are most frightened of another drop and have become more wary of alternatives like hedge funds, a new report released on Tuesday shows.

Nearly one third of investors or 31% listed a market downturn as their biggest concern in May, up from 27% in January, according to a survey conducted by human resources consulting firm Mercer and conference organizer Context Summits.

The groups polled investors in January and again in May after the U.S. economy was largely shut down to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, sending unemployment to historic highs and leading economists to forecast a deep recession ahead.

Respondents cooled on hedge funds, with only 52% saying they are optimistic about the asset class in 2020, compared with 64% who called themselves optimistic last year and 70% who were optimistic in 2018. Hedge funds on average gained 11% last year and lost 5% in the first five months of 2020, data from Hedge Fund Research show.

In May, 13% investors said they were “very optimistic” about hedge funds, up from 7% in January. At the same time, 15% said they were either “pessimistic” or “very pessimistic”, roughly double the 8% that listed themselves in those categories in January.

Investors are paying more attention to environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) with those viewing it as “extremely favorable” registering at 12% in 2020, up from 9% in 2019. The “extreme negative” sentiment shrunk to 34% in 2020, down from 42% last year.

“Allocators hold increasingly diverging views on public markets due to the COVID-19 crisis, with many seeing opportunities in certain sectors such as e-commerce and transformational technologies, as well as emerging market and credit investments,” said Gregg Sommer, a partner at Mercer.

Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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