More than half of the world's richest investors see a big market drop in 2020, says UBS survey

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Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on October 2, 2019 at Wall Street in New York City.

Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

A majority of the most wealthy investors around the world are bracing for a big sell-off next year, according to a UBS survey.

Fifty-five percent of more than 3,400 high net worth investors surveyed by UBS expect a significant drop in the markets at some point in 2020. Amid intensifying geopolitical risks, the super-rich have increased their cash holding to 25% of their average assets, the survey showed.

“Investors see reasons to be cautious in the new year,” said UBS Global Wealth Management’s client strategy office in a note on Tuesday. “Two in three global investors believe markets now are driven more by geopolitical events than business fundamentals such as profitability, revenue and growth potential.”

The ultra-wealthy’s top geopolitical concerns include the U.S.-China trade war and 2020 U.S. presidential election, UBS said.

Stocks hit record highs last week, lifted by rising optimism on a trade resolution between the U.S. and China. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 are both up more than 3% in the past month. However, the two sides are still finalizing the so-called “phase one” deal and they seem to disagree on if the existing tariffs would be lifted.

As the presidential election gets closer, Wall Street started to watch closely at the ascent of Elizabeth Warren. Notable investors including Paul Tudor Jones and Leon Cooperman have warned of a market correction on a Warren presidency.

Almost eight in 10 investors surveyed by UBS see higher volatility and nearly three in four investors believe the investment environment is more challenging than it was five years ago, the survey showed.

Nearly 60% of the respondents feel less in control of their portfolio’s performance than they used to, the survey said. In response to the riskier environment, 64% of investors said they are considering adding high quality stocks to their portfolios.

The high net worth investors surveyed by UBS have at least $1 million in investable assets.

— With reporting from Michael Bloom.

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