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State Street's investor confidence index up 0.8 points in July to 107.6

Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Opalesque Industry Update - The State Street Global Investor Confidence Index rose very slightly to 107.6 in July, up 0.8 points from June’s revised reading of 106.8. The increase was slight, and was largely driven by an increase in risk appetite among Asian investors, with their risk appetite jumping from 89.3 to 100.8, and, to a lesser extent by an increase in risk appetite among European investors, with a corresponding increase from 98.2 to 105.7. North American investors by contrast became somewhat more conservative, showing a decline (albeit very small) from 114 to 113.7.

The State Street Investor Confidence Index was developed by Harvard University professor Kenneth Froot and Paul O’Connell of State Street Associates. It measures investor confidence or risk appetite quantitatively by analyzing the actual buying and selling patterns of institutional investors. The index assigns a precise meaning to changes in investor risk appetite: the greater the percentage allocation to equities, the higher risk appetite or confidence. A reading of 100 is neutral; it is the level at which investors are neither increasing nor decreasing their long-term allocations to risky assets. The index differs from survey-based measures in that it is based on the actual trades, as opposed to opinions, of institutional investors.

“This month, North American investors are more concerned with rapid run ups in stocks and interest rates,” commented Froot. Last month’s risk-on view was that the interest rate increase doesn’t portend higher inflation nor higher growth - that it’s just a reduction in the rate-distortion caused by the Fed’s QEIII. Investors are back to a more realistic concern that, distortion or not, higher nominal and real rates translate into less credit extension, less leverage, and slower growth. This has been underscored by the results of the earnings season, which have been mixed. It’s also a reminder that the previously high rates of forecasted earnings growth are, at this point, in the unlikely positive tail.”

“The more decisive part of this month’s story is what is happening with European and Asian investors,” said O’Connell. “There we see that there is light at the end of the tunnel of adjustment to slower Chinese, Japanese, and European growth. They seem to be saying that, in spite of higher interest rates globally, the developed-countries’ monetary authorities are most likely to act to reduce the risk of economic growth, responding with flexibility and stimulus on the downside and using the opportunity for faster growth to tighten and slim their balance sheets. As a result, the range of real economic growth outcomes is actually more limited than it has been in a long time.”

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