May 16, 2019 / 8:33 PM / 2 days ago

U.S.-based equity funds post $12.27 billion outflows amid U.S.-China trade tensions

(Reuters) - Investors rattled by lingering trade tensions between the United States and China pulled $12.27 billion from U.S.-based equity funds in the week ended Wednesday, according to data released by Refinitiv’s Lipper research service on Thursday.

It was the category’s fourth consecutive week of outflows, Lipper data showed. Investors sought shelter from plummeting equity markets earlier in the week and moved money into money market and Treasury funds.

U.S.-based money market funds attracted $14.49 billion in the week ended Wednesday, their fourth consecutive week of inflows, Lipper said. U.S.-based government-Treasury bond funds attracted $1.55 billion in the week ended Wednesday, Lipper said.

On Monday, the S&P 500 suffered its steepest drop since early January, after Beijing said it would raise tariffs on American-made goods in retaliation for a similar move from the United States. Stocks have since rebounded from that plunge but there are signs that investors continue to worry about the costs of the prolonged trade dispute.

Pat Keon, senior research analyst at Lipper, noted that for the second week in a row equity, equity exchange-traded funds (ETFs) had net outflows right around $10 billion.

“This represents the 2nd and 3rd highest of the year for the group and highest since January 30 with investors withdrawing about $14.6 billion,” Keon said.

For the last two weeks, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF has accounted for over half of the total weekly net outflows for equity ETFs, Keon said.

“This coupled with the large net inflows into money markets over the last two weeks indicates to me that there is a lot of uncertainty in the market, driven mainly by the U.S-China trade tensions,” he said.

High-yield “junk” bond funds correlate more with equity than they do with investment-grade taxable debt, Keon noted. U.S.-based high-yield funds posted $2.57 billion in cash withdrawals in the week ended Wednesday, their second straight week of outflows.

“Not surprising to see the large net outflows from them as it aligns with market performance and the negative flows from equity funds,” Keon said.

“The high-yield results were the main reason that taxable bond mutual funds suffered a weekly net outflow this week of $263 million, which broke a streak of 17 straight weekly net inflows,” he added.

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan; Editing by James Dalgleish and Alistair Bell

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