Russia today moved formally to annex the Crimea—and hedge fund managers are worried.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s March Fund Manager Survey shows 81% fear geopolitical risk. The poll was taken as matters between the Ukraine and Russia continued to deteriorate this month, culminating on Sunday with the Crimean referendum to leave the Ukraine and join Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of an annexation treaty today. The conflict has battered Russian and European stocks, and the U.S. and European Union leaders have promised increasing sanctions against Russia.
Fund managers’ stock holdings have dropped to a 15-month low, according to the BofA survey, and have also cut leverage. The number of investors identifying geopolitical crisis as the chief tail risk more than doubled, from 12% last month to 27% in March.
“Responding at a point of growing tension in Ukraine, 81% of investors said they see geopolitical risk posing a threat to financial markets stability—more than four times the reading one month ago,” BofA’s Michael Hartnett said.