By Sujata Rao
UK investors have cut equity holdings, raised bond allocations to nine-month highs and are holding the largest proportion of their money in cash since January as Britain's shock Brexit vote and worries about the world economy and politics hurt sentiment.
The monthly asset allocation survey of UK-based funds was conducted June 15-29, straddling Britain's June 23 referendum on its European Union (EU) membership which resulted in a narrow win for the Leave camp.
At least half the responses dated from before the verdict, but many of those said that after weeks of market volatility, uncertainty over U.S. interest rates and fears of a Chinese slowdown, portfolios had already been braced for the worst.
The vote pushed sterling down 8 percent to 31-year lows against the dollar on June 24 and wiped more than $2 trillion off global stock markets and drove double-digit losses on UK banking shares.
"Unquestionably, we have seen an extraordinary amount of money withdrawn from the global equity markets on Brexit worries," Peter Lowman, CIO at the Investment Quorum wealth manager said, noting the flight to bonds and cash.
But he said it was not "a Lehman moment" and our approach on the Friday morning and indeed for the next few days has been to tell our clients to keep calm and not to panic".
UK asset managers cash allocations have risen steadily in recent months and are at 8.8 percent, the second highest level in a year.
Funds also cut equities by 2 percentage points versus May to 47 percent of their global portfolios while raising bond allocations by one percentage point to 25.7 percent.
The weighting of government securities in bond portfolios jumped almost 10 percentage points to 35.5 percent while the share of property in global portfolios rose to 6.5 percent from 5 percent last month.
Rob Pemberton, investment director at HFM Columbus Asset Management had expected a "remain" vote but "had portfolios cautiously positioned in any case because of more global concerns - global growth, Fed monetary policy, China."
Another fund manager said aside from a cut in property allocations, his portfolio was unchanged post-referendum.
The possibility of a win for Donald Trump in U.S. presidential elections is seen as a potential speed bump ahead - three-quarters of UK asset managers who responded to the question saw a Trump presidency as negative for markets.
Brexit volatility and recession fears have driven a further slump in bond yields, with over $11 trillion of government debt now yielding less than zero.
World stocks meanwhile are down 1 percent this year while European and UK stocks have lost 10 percent in dollar terms <.MIWD00000PUS> <.FTSE> However, markets are recovering from post-referendum lows.
Trevor Greetham, head of multi-asset at Royal London Asset Management said the slump in bond yields meant value was extremely poor in the asset class.
Much now hinges on progress in post-Brexit negotiations, with the EU as well as on forming a new UK government after the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Markets hate uncertainty. They do not like Brexit and they will not tolerate...the concept that the UK goes into 2 years of negotiations with no pre-agreed deal," Greetham said.
(Additional reporting by Hari Kishan; Editing by Hugh Lawson)