The trend accentuated on Monday as last week’s vote by the UK to leave the European Union sent new shocks through financial markets causing the pound to slump to its lowest level since 1985 and sending stocks in the UK and Eurpe sharply lower, with banks and life companies particularly hard hit.
At the same time demand for safe-haven bonds has pushed yields down to their lowest levels on record. On Monday the yield on British government 10-year bonds fell below 1% for the first time ever in line with a similar move by Germany’s benchmark 10-year bond yield earlier this month, which saw yields hit negative territory.
Meanwhile the price of gold rallied by 8% on Monday to be close to its highest level since 2009 at $1,335.30 an ounce.
BullionVault, the world’s largest physical gold and silver online market, said users have added well over three-quarters of a tonne (834kg) to their gold holdings so far in 2016, and stored it in places like London, New York, Singapore, Toronto and Zurich.
Gold holding by BullionVault’s clients now stand at more than most of the world’s central banks keep in their reserves, it said.
“There is quite a lot out there to be concerned about and it is not going to go away in a hurry.”
This type of asset allocation by wealthy investors and institutions has been building over the past three months, and is generally associated with fears of an economic crisis.
Cash is king
A survey of asset managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch earlier this month found investors were sitting on their largest stockpiles of cash since 2001 and had cut equity holdings to a four-year low.
Risk appetite, as shown in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey, has reached its lowest level in four years, which is usually consistent with a recession. But the same survey showed growth and profit expectations at a six-month high, with inflation expectations at a one-year high.
Rather than a single big event making investors worried, it seems a long list of potential problems, including the impact of the Brexit referendum is behind the current risk-off move.