The results come amid a stock market correction that brought major averages down more than 10 percent at one point, and a spike in bond yields that sent the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to a four-year high.
Fears of a breakdown in the bond market did not push investors to stocks. The portfolio level dedicated to equities fell to a net 43 percent overweight, a 12 percentage point drop that was the biggest move in two years. Cash balances rose three-tenths from January to 4.7 percent.
“While this month’s survey shows that investors are holding on to more cash and allocating less to equities, neither trait moves the needle enough to give the all clear to buy the dip,” said Michael Hartnett, chief investment strategist at BofAML.
The firm’s proprietary “Bull & Bear” indicator correctly flashed a sell signal for stocks in late January that Hartnett said is still in place.
Respondents overall grew more pessimistic amid the market turmoil after expressing positive sentiment for months.
They indicated that the bull market likely will peak with the S&P 500 at 3,100, or about 17 percent above Monday’s close. Some 70 percent believe the global expansion is in the “late cycle,” the highest reading in 10 years.
However, 91 percent still say a recession is unlikely and remain long in cyclical sectors including tech, banks, energy, emerging markets, Europe and Japan. Optimism over profits is at its highest level since 2011.