Big time investors are fed up with companies' shenanigans

Evidently, there is only so far you can push investors before they get tired of businesses using the same tactics.

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Fund manager survey, institutional investors are fed up with the short-term focus of companies’ investments.

In the survey, which drew responses from 205 managers with $619 in assets under management, 73% of the respondents said that companies are not investing enough in their business and long-term capital.

Capital expenditures have been anemic for some time. With companies surveying a landscape of slow global growth going forward its not unreasonable for them to be sceptical of betting heavily on long-term equipment. Based on the survey, however, the cuts and unwillingness to make these investments has made investors weary.

On the flip side, most of the managers believed that short-term, shareholder focused actions are getting too prevalent.

“No surprise then that investors continue to express fatigue with financial engineering, as a net 17% of investors think corporate payout ratios (dividends & buybacks) are too high,” said Michael Hartnett, Chief Investment Strategist, in a note accompanying the survey.

This is not surprising, criticism of buybacks and “financial engineering” have abounded over the last few quarters as companies have heavily relied on these tactics to improve earnings.

This is especially prescient since the survey was conducted in the midst of earnings season, when companies not only announce their results but also their intentions for payouts and capex.

Based on these two metrics, institutional investors did not like what they heard.

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