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World investors cut stocks and hold cash as uncertainty dominates

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[December 01, 2014]  By Chris Vellacott

LONDON (Reuters) - (This version of the Nov. 28 story has been correct to amend quote attribution in third paragraph to contributor's current name following rebrand)

World investors eased back on their exposure to risk assets such as stocks as they grappled with divergent monetary policies and multi-speed growth paths among major world economies, a global poll shows.

A monthly survey of 47 senior investors in the United States, Europe, Britain and Japan found the average recommended exposure to stocks in global balanced portfolios eased for a second consecutive month to 49.1 percent in November from 49.5 percent.

"The greatest risk remains disappointment on global growth level ... Markets remain vulnerable to any negative newsflow on macroeconomic indicators, be it in the Euro zone, in the US or even in China," Candriam Investors Group said in comment sent to Reuters for the poll.

An end to monetary stimulus, in place since the financial crisis, in the United States and Britain as their economies gather momentum stands in marked contrast to policies elsewhere.

Japan, the Eurozone and China are moving toward boosting money supply to counter sluggish or falling economic growth, leaving investors with an uncertain environment to grapple with.

Many still feel global growth is shaky - as evidenced in recent falls in global oil prices prompted by worries energy demand will be weak.

Global investors' cash allocations - used as a safe haven in times of volatile markets - eased back to 6.2 percent in November, the poll showed, but remained close to the year's high of 6.7 percent reached in October.

Allocations to bonds - also seen as a safe haven relative to equities - rose to 36.8 percent from 36.4 percent.

The poll was taken from Nov. 14-27, when world stocks recovered more of the poise lost during the volatility seen in mid-October and gained close to 2 percent.

The U.S. S&P 500 index set a record high during the survey period, climbing more than 1.5 percent. Emerging-market stocks also posted a more than 1.5 percent gain during the survey period.

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They remain more than 7 percent off a September peak for the year, battered by a strong U.S. dollar luring investment away, fears of China slowing down and fallout from the standoff with Russia over its role in Ukraine.

U.S. fund managers cut their recommended equity allocation in model portfolios for a sixth consecutive month and increased their bond holdings.

Recommended stock holdings for U.S investors fell to 54.4 percent in November from 55.0 percent in the previous month.

European investors built up holdings of safe-haven cash by 60 basis points to 8.6 percent. Exposure to stocks was cut to 47.1 percent on average from 47.7 percent a month earlier.

Japanese fund managers' allocations to equities inched down to 43.2 percent in November from 43.6 percent in October and allocations to bonds was little changed at 51.8 percent from 52.0 percent the previous month.

British investment managers kept equity allocations at a two-year low this month at 51.7 percent, and property holdings at multi-year highs of 4.7 percent. They reduced their cash holdings to an average of 8.3 percent, down from last month's multi-year highs of 11.2 percent but still higher than at any other time in the past year.

(Additional reporting by Sam Wilkin, Rahul Karunakar, Deepti Govind and Shinichi Saoshiro)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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