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BlackRock sees clients shifting to illiquid assets from stocks

[NEW YORK] BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, said investors are turning to more-illiquid holdings such as real estate and private credit as they seek to generate returns and combat market volatility.

More than half of those responding to a survey of about 170 of BlackRock's largest institutional clients are planning to increase allocations to private credit and real assets, the firm said Monday in a statement. Globally, investors are turning away from stocks, with about 33 per cent planning to decrease their equity allocations.

Institutional investors have been building allocations to illiquid securities to offset pressure from low interest rates, which squeeze returns on traditional holdings such as bonds. Principal Financial Group Inc Chief Executive Officer Daniel Houston said in September that he was considering investing in infrastructure and timber, while TIAA-CREF started a US$667 million venture in June to invest in timber.

"Many investors are looking to illiquid assets to insulate themselves from market volatility," Mark McCombe, senior managing director and global head of BlackRock's institutional client business, said in the statement. "The ripple effect from recent events is causing investors to actively manage risk." The Standard & Poor's 500 Index had declined 6.7 per cent this year through Friday, and is on track for its worst January since 2009. Market risk has driven investors to find other sources of return, McCombe said.

The retreat from equities is more pronounced among US and Canadian investors, BlackRock said. Clients in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are looking to also scale back hedge- fund investments, while US and Canadian institutions are planning to increase those allocations.

Investors are pouring more money into higher-yielding sectors. More than 30 per cent of respondents are planning to boost investments in securitized assets while 27 per cent plan to funnel more funds into US bank loans.


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