NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. fund investors shied away from riskier bets in the latest week, Lipper data showed on Thursday, with junk bonds and emerging-market stocks posting their worst outflows since January.
The $1.9 billion outflow from high-yield bond funds during the week marks the largest withdrawal for those funds since January, while the $1.4 billion in outflows from emerging-market stock funds is also the largest outflow since that brutal month of trading, Lipper records show.
The exodus did not spare U.S.-based stock funds, which posted $6.1 billion in outflows during the week that ended May 11, data from the fund-research service showed.
After a rough start to trading this year, market returns have improved. Most widely traded financial assets are up - some substantially - from a February low. The S&P 500 benchmark has returned more than 13 percent since then, including dividend payouts.
Yet investors may be anticipating an unsettled market and responding accordingly, analysts said.
“The dominant story right now is still risk off,” said Luke Oliver, head of ETF capital markets for the Americas at Deutsche Bank AG’s asset-management arm. “We’ve got a lot uncertainty globally at the moment.”
Stock funds in the United States have now posted outflows in 15 of 19 weeks so far this year “despite the strength - or the perceived strength - of the market,” said Lipper research analyst Pat Keon.
“It is contradictory to what we’d expect to see,” he said. “Sentiment on the street is that it’s over-valued, and they’re moving away from it.”
Chinese stock funds posted $818 million in outflows during the week, the largest outflow since June 2013, according to Lipper, a Thomson Reuters unit. Data on Monday showed China’s exports and imports fell more than expected in April, underlining weak demand at home and abroad.
Overall, taxable bond funds posted $514 million in outflows during the same period, the data showed, their first net withdrawals in six weeks.
The continued popularity of high-credit, investment-grade corporate bond funds and municipal-bond funds softened the blow of withdrawals from more speculative funds. Muni funds took in the most money of any week this year, with $1.2 billion.
Money-market funds, where investors park cash, attracted $5.1 billion and their third straight week netting new money. Precious metals commodities funds, another haven, attracted $772 million.
The following is a broad breakdown of the flows for the week, including ETFs (in $ billions):
Sector Flow Chg % Assets Assets Count
All Equity Funds -6.071 -0.12 5,089.618 11,966
Domestic Equities -2.096 -0.06 3,600.760 8,493
Non-Domestic Equities -3.975 -0.27 1,488.858 3,473
All Taxable Bond Funds -0.514 -0.02 2,234.982 6,094
All Money Market Funds 5.107 0.22 2,334.548 1,122
All Municipal Bond Funds 1.212 0.33 371.991 1,421
Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Diane Craft