Ultra-wealthy are loading up on cash

A group of multimillionaire investors in the U.S. are hoarding cash at unprecedented levels.

Tiger 21, a club of more than 800 investors, reported Thursday that its members have raised their cash holdings to 19% of their total assets on concerns over the economic consequences of the covid pandemic in the U.S. That’s up from about 12% since the start of the outbreak. About a quarter now expect the crisis to continue until the end of next June, the group said.

“This rise in cash is an extraordinary change — statistically, this is the largest, fastest change in asset allocation Tiger 21 has seen,” said Michael Sonnenfeldt, chairman of the club, whose participants typically have more than $100 million in assets. “In trying to build resources prudently, members have gained liquidity and will not immediately reinvest in those areas in order to keep and build cash to weather this storm.”

With almost 180,000 coronavirus deaths, the U.S. is among nations worst affected by the virus. It endured the worst recession on record in the second quarter, and economists are increasingly warning about a prolonged slowdown if lawmakers fail to provide $1 trillion to $2 trillion in relief funds this fall.

The economic hit from the pandemic has failed to put a halt to rising stock prices. The S&P 500 Index closed at a peak on Thursday, taking its rebound from a March low to 56% thanks to continued support from the Federal Reserve and strength from tech companies catering to people stuck at home.

That’s also led to about 84% of chief financial officers now seeing equities as too expensive, according to a quarterly survey conducted by Deloitte — the second-highest level in the decade since the accounting and consulting firm began collecting the data. Only 2% of respondents said U.S. stocks look cheap.

Tiger 21 members usually meet monthly in small gatherings to share perspectives and debate investments that are usually conservative and longer term. Even as most expect the virus crisis to continue for the rest of this year, they remain confident in long-term U.S. growth and are still looking for opportunities with “dramatic upside opportunity,” the group’s report said.

While they’re long-term investors, many of Tiger 21’s members did take advantage of the initial market turmoil stemming from the pandemic and bet against the S&P 500. That left Sonnenfeldt and other members with “3, 4, 5, even 10 times what we paid” for the put options they bought, he said in March, declining to disclose how much they wagered.

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