This content is from: Corner Office

Stock Markets Are Flat. Infections Have Spiked. Which Do Investors Care More About?

Four dramatic weeks, shown in private II data.

A lot has changed in a month.

Just four weeks ago the II Fear Index recorded the most optimistic views yet from institutional investors, who were feeling ever more upbeat about the economy’s trajectory as they grew less concerned about the spread of Covid-19.

Since then, sentiment has reversed sharply, with asset managers and allocators polled this week fearing a major resurgence of coronavirus infections and sharing mounting pessimism about their countries’ economic prospects.

This week’s survey, which had 139 respondents, found that nearly 70 percent were more concerned about a new spike in Covid-19 cases than they were three weeks ago, including 33 percent who reported that they were “much more concerned.” Three weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported a daily increase of about 28,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. On Monday — the last day responses were accepted for this week’s Fear Index — the number of new confirmed cases passed 44,000.

[II Deep Dive: The II Fear Index: Investors Get Gloomier — But More Productive]

Investor concerns over the increasing rate of infection in the U.S. have been reflected over the last few surveys, with respondent priorities seen shifting back to public health over economic stability. This week, 57 percent said governments should be focusing on health, compared to 43 percent who thought political leaders should prioritize economic issues.

This is in contrast to one month ago, when a majority of respondents indicated that economic stability was the more pressing matter.

Even then, investors seemed to think the economy had reached a turning point. In the June 10 edition of the II Fear Index, 36 percent of respondents reported that they were more optimistic about the economic prospects of their countries, outnumbering those who cited an increase in pessimism.

Much of that hope seems to have vanished. This week’s survey found that just 14 percent of respondents felt more optimistic about the economy compared to last week — the lowest proportion since late April — while 42 percent were more pessimistic.

Nearly all investors said they expected a prolonged economic recovery, including 47 percent who predicted a W-shape, or multiple spikes of recovery before economic indicators reach pre-pandemic heights. Meanwhile, 38 percent suggested the recovery would be U-shaped, including an extended trough of high unemployment, slow capital investment, and sluggish growth. 

When asked about the shape of the recovery six weeks ago, 37 percent though it would be W-shaped, while 53 percent predicted a U-shape. At neither point did investors think a rapid recovery was likely: Just 7 percent of investors participating in the May 26 index expected a V-shaped recovery, while only slightly more — 12 percent — predicted as much in this week’s poll.

More results from the II Fear Index poll continue below. To contribute to the index, please sign up here.