November 16, 2017 / 10:32 PM / a year ago

U.S. junk bond funds post fourth-biggest week of outflows ever: Lipper

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. fund investors walloped high-yield funds with their biggest week of withdrawals since March, Lipper data showed on Thursday.

The junk bond mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) posted $4.4 billion in net withdrawals during the week ended Nov. 15, the fourth-largest weekly outflow on record dating back to 1992.

Several concerns weighed on high-yield markets during the week, but the extensive withdrawals signal that investor sentiment after a strong year of performance may have been chief among them. Three high-yield bond deals have also been pulled from the market in the space of a week in the face of investor push-back.

The U.S.-listed, $11.6 billion SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond ETF posted negative performance in 14 of the last 19 days. Over the last month it delivered a negative 0.57 percent total return, with price declines cushioned by the plush yield it pays.

The ETF posted $947 million in withdrawals during the week, Lipper estimates.

Elevated high-yield outflows are somewhat concerning, said Pat Keon, senior analyst for the Lipper research unit of Thomson Reuters, citing what he called the absence of an obvious catalyst.

“I wouldn’t expect anything like I saw,” he said.

Bank of America Corp analysts said in a Nov. 10 note that high-yield volatility has been “driven primarily by a confluence of several meaningful and yet only loosely related events,” including the potential for U.S. tax reform to be delayed.


Investors’ sour temper dragged down sales for bonds overall, despite that category’s resilience this year.

Taxable bond fund outflows were $1.9 billion for the week, marking the category’s first withdrawals since July, Lipper said. The funds remain on course for their third-best year of flows on record.

Stock fund flows weakened, too, with $240 million in outflows marking the first week of withdrawals in six. Domestic equity outflows more than offset inflows for their counterparts focused abroad, according to Lipper.

Within sectors, oil price declines over concerns about growth in U.S. production and inventories hobbled energy firms. Stock funds focused on that sector recorded $302 million in outflows, the most since September. But technology-sector funds, buoyed by strong third-quarter corporate earnings, attracted $965 million in their largest inflows since the same month.

Riskier stocks outside the United States retained their appeal. Emerging-markets equity funds raked in a tenth straight week of cash and Japanese stocks snapped up a sixth consecutive week of net inflows.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis

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