(June 11): Pension funds in growing economies in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East have a sharply higher percentage of assets parked in stocks, just at a time when trade tensions threaten to derail markets.

c in 14 geographies now allocate 40% of their assets to equities, an 8 percentage-point climb over the past five years, according to a Mercer LLC survey released Tuesday that canvassed government, corporate and mandatory pension funds with almost US$5 trillion ($6.8 trillion) in assets under management. That compares with about 25% for pension funds in Europe.

The escalating trade spat between the US and China has heightened fears that stocks are ripe for a downturn. With tensions mounting and outcomes driven more by politics than economics, the S&P 500 Index will be on course for a “full-scale bear market” without Federal Reserve interest-rate cuts, Citigroup Inc’s global macro strategy team said earlier this week.

The increased allocation to equities by growth-market pension funds has come at the expense of fixed-income investments, which declined 11 percentage points over the five years, according to the survey.

Hong Kong funds have the highest exposure to equities at 66%, although that’s been relatively stable over the period. Japan’s equity allocation jumped 13 percentage points while South Korea’s increased 8 percentage points.

The money managers are also directing a higher portion of their funds to assets outside of their home countries. On average, foreign stocks now account for 49% of respondents’ equity investments, 4 percentage points higher than five years ago, while foreign fixed-income exposure climbed 7 percentage points to 23%. Funds in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those seeking greater diversification in stocks and fixed income.