Bullishness for emerging markets equity fell to its lowest level since March 2009 in the first quarter, according to a survey of U.S. investment managers from Russell Investments.

While 51% of respondents remain bullish on emerging markets, that is down significantly from the 71% who felt that way in December 2010, according to the survey. Interest in non-U.S. developed markets also saw a drop in bullishness to 49%, down nine points from December.

"Investment managers have favored emerging market equities for some time, but many believe the strong run may soon be over and the time for profit-taking is now," said Rachel Carroll, client portfolio manager at Russell Investments. "Managers are taking note of the civil unrest in the Middle East and the impact of food inflation in emerging economies, and some have concluded that this often volatile asset class is less attractive than it once was."

Fifty-four percent of money managers say concerns over interest rate increases over the next 12 months are impacting investment decisions.

The Russell quarterly survey is an ongoing survey intended to generate a snapshot of investment manager sentiment each quarter. The survey of 180 U.S. senior-level investment decision makers was conducted before the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, and so the responses do not reflect the current impact of that event.

The survey also found that technology was the most favored sector for the ninth quarter in a row, with 74% of managers feeling bullish toward the sector. Managers also weighed in on which industries they thought were the most promising, with 49% favoring computer software, 43% favoring communications and 30% favoring semiconductors.

The financial services sector, which has seen declines in bullishness over the past year, showed an uptick to 49% for the quarter from 39% in December 2010. The figure represents the highest level since September 2009, Russell says.

The survey also showed that manager bullishness toward the energy sector is up 22% from March 2010 to 69%.