Stocks heading for 'Humpty Dumpty' big fall: BAML

LONDON (Reuters) - If you know your nursery rhymes, analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch think over-pumped stocks are heading for a Humpty Dumpty-style fall in the coming months.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

In their weekly round up of global asset flows, BAML said the prospect of more U.S. rate hikes, combined with the ECB readying to scale back its stimulus, meant markets were at a “massive inflection point” in the decade-long easy money trade.

Year-to-date $170 billion has been pumped into equities while $208 billion has gone into bonds. It means both asset classes are on track for record years in terms of inflows if they keep it up, but BAML is doubtful.

“Next 6 months, higher interest rates likely much more negative for stocks & credit given new central bank policies,” its strategists wrote. “Will likely lead to ‘Humpty Dumpty’ big fall in market in autumn, in our view.”

Over the last week from Wednesday-to Wednesday for BAML’s number crunchers, there were already some signs a shift may be taking place.

Tech funds saw their largest redemptions in 30 weeks, for consumer sector-focused funds it was the biggest in 21 weeks, while Eurozone equity funds saw their first outflows in 15 weeks.

At the same time though, banks and financials saw their biggest inflows in 20 weeks, there was an overall $2.9 billion pumped into equities and emerging market debt and equity funds enjoyed 23rd and 16th consecutive weeks of inflows respectively.

For timing the expected “big fall” BAML added that monitoring corporate bonds and company profits would be key.

They said credit markets remain strong, but noted the U.S. high yield has lagged high grade debt since March, which is a disconnect with European credit markets.

And while corporate profit growth has accelerated, the disconnect with employment growth is notable. Further weak payroll growth would hint at profits topping out and a policy mistake from the central banks if they tighten policy.

“Summer 2017 = massive inflection point in central bank liquidity trade,” BAML said.

Reporting by Marc Jones Editing by Jeremy Gaunt