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Funds dump U.S. stocks for emerging markets: Reuters poll

By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Solid growth in emerging markets and a struggling U.S. economy prompted global investors to pump money into Asian and Latin American stocks in October, Reuters polls showed on Thursday.

Four surveys of 56 leading investment houses in the United States, Europe ex-UK, Britain and Japan showed equity holdings at their highest level in six months and bonds at their lowest since May.

But the overall figures masked a shift away from U.S. and euro zone equities toward emerging markets and Britain, whose major companies have large global exposure.

Overall, the 56 firms raised equity holdings to 52.7 percent of a typical portfolio of mixed assets from 50.8 percent in September.

Bonds dropped to 34.6 percent from 36.1 percent and cash fell to 5.0 percent from 5.4 percent, still a high enough level to provide more fuel for a risk rally.

Within equity portfolios, however, it is clear that the primary driver for the October stock market rally has been a shift into emerging markets.

Exposure to equities in emerging Europe, Asia ex-Japan. Latin America and Africa/Middle East rose to 15.6 percent of a typical stock portfolio from 14.3 percent a month earlier.

By contrast, investors cut U.S. equity holdings to 42.4 percent from 43.2 percent, and euro zone stocks to 20.8 from 21.6 percent.

Respondents said one of the main catalysts for the move to equities was the prospect for more asset-buying, or quantitative easing, from central banks, mainly the U.S. Federal Reserve. This would pump liquidity into the system, weaken the dollar, make emerging market currencies more attractive and lift commodity prices.

"We have been putting some cash back to work recently, particularly into equities and precious metals," said Neil Michael, executive director, investment strategies at London & Capital.

"These assets will benefit from QE because investors will be looking to re-invest the proceeds from the sale of government bonds to the central banks."

REGIONALLY

U.S. fund managers raised their exposure to equities in October and cut their high allocation to fixed-income assets.

The 14 U.S.-based fund management firms polled raised equity holdings for a second consecutive month to an average 62.4 percent of their assets, compared with 61.7 percent in September and 61.5 percent in August.

Fixed-income securities, including government, investment-grade and high-yield "junk" bonds, dropped for a second consecutive month to 30.4 percent in October from 31.1 percent in September.

European fund managers outside Britain lifted their equity holdings to an eight-month high while cutting bonds and cash.

The poll of 17 Europe-based asset management firms showed a typical mixed portfolio holding 48.4 percent in equities in October, its highest since February, compared with 46.6 percent last month.

They held 39.0 percent in bonds, the lowest level since June. Cash holdings fell to a nine-month low of 6.0 percent from 6.6 percent in September.

Japanese fund managers raised their weighting for equities to the highest level in 10 months while cutting their exposure to bonds.

The 13 managers polls lifted their average weighting for equities to 46.6 percent, the highest since December, from 45.7 percent the previous month.

The weighting for bonds fell to 46.8 percent in October from 48.5 percent a month earlier. Cash positions increased to 3.7 percent after falling to a low for this year of 2.9 percent in September.

UK fund managers rounded off the broad move to equities and reduced their exposure to bonds and cash.

The survey of 12 British fund managers found that the average equities allocation jumped to 53.5 percent from 49.1 percent in September. Bond holdings slipped to 22.2 percent from 24.7 percent.

Cash dropped to 7.1 percent from 8.7 percent.

(Additional reporting by Natsuko Waki, Claire Milhench and Michel Rose in London, Akiko Takeda and Chikafumi Hodo in Tokyo, Jennifer Ablan in New York and Banagalore Polling Unit; editing by Stephen Nisbet)

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