Red Flag For Markets: Pension Funds To Sell "Near Record" Amount Of Stocks In The Next Few Days

One of the recurring comments about the "Trumpflation" rally, which has sent US stock markets to constant record highs and pushed the Dow Jones just shy of 20,000 has been that there is virtually nobody selling. According to a poll released today by Reuters, which surveyed 45 fund managers and CIOs around the globe, investors' equity holdings rose to six-month highs in December on bets that buying at all time highs would mean selling even higher.

"Be ready to buy dips," Trevor Greetham, head of multi-asset at Royal London Asset Management, told Reuters however that has proven difficult in the past two months as there have been largely no dips to buy. As Carl Icahn lamented earlier on CNBC, "nobody is selling."

However, according to a new analysis from Credit Suisse, a "seller" may emerge, and a very determined one at that.

In a report by the Swiss Bank's Victor Lin, pension funds that rebalance monthly and quarterly would need to sell $38 billion of U.S. equities in coming days to rebalance to prior asset allocation levels.

While regular readers are well aware, there has been a massive capital shift out of global bonds and into stocks in the 4th quarter, leading ironically to a mirror image result: while the value of global stocks has risen by $3 trillion since the US election according to Deutsche Bank, the value of debt has declined by an identical amount.

But while Mark-To- Market values of key asset holdings in pension portfolios have shifted violently, pensions have specific quotas to adhere to, which in this case means selling winners and buying losers to return to their mandated allocation percentages.

As a result, according to Lin's analysis, the “estimated rotation out of domestic U.S. equities would be one of the largest on record” with relatively large outperformance versus other asset classes both on a monthly and quarterly basis.  Additionally, Lin estimates selling of $864 million in developed market international stocks.

While the exodus from US and International stocks would be substantial, the offset to this would be an aggressively buying of more than $6.3 billion in emerging market equities. Another offset would be the purchase of that "other" formerly beloved asset class: bonds, where pensions could end up buying approximately $22 billion.

There is more bad news: the Credit Suisse analysts believes the selling in U.S. equities could increase to nearly $58 billion (and bond buying to over $35 billion) should equity-bond relative performance continue to widen before year-end.

Assuming his analysis is correct, the question is how will this exaggerated selling take place in the five remaining trading days of 2016 during what is already extremely thin and illiquid tape, where most traders are now gone on holiday, and in which HFTs are just salivating at the thought of frontrunning major block orders: remember, HFT works both on the way up and, in some very rare occasions, on the way down.

We expect an answer in the next several days; should Lin be right one can cancel that Dow 20,000 hat order, if only for the balance of this year.