U.S. investors take shelter in foreign-stock and bond funds

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors hesitated to take more risk in the U.S. stock market, finding cover in bonds and outside their home market during the latest week, Investment Company Institute data showed on Wednesday.

U.S.-based bond funds absorbed $13.2 billion, the most cash since June 2015 in a 13th straight week of inflows, during the week ended March 22, the trade group’s data showed.

Funds in the United States that buy stocks abroad attracted $5.1 billion, their 16th straight week inhaling cash and longest streak of fundraising since 2015.

“We can’t pay these high levels for growth we can’t see,” said Matthew Bartolini, head of SPDR Americas research at State Street Global Advisors.

The S&P 500 was flat over the last month after choppy trading followed a Federal Reserve interest rate hike and the defeat of an Obamacare repeal effort viewed as foreshadowing Washington’s ability to deliver stock-boosting reforms such as tax cuts.

Domestic stock funds recorded $6.9 billion in withdrawals, their first week of outflows in eight, ICI said.

Bartolini said after the failed healthcare repeal effort he is now wondering “which one of these Trump trades still have room to run regardless of fiscal stimulus,” referring to market segments like small U.S. companies and industrials that prospered after the November election of President Donald Trump but have fizzled lately.

Banks can thrive, he said, because they are trading cheaply and because Trump can cut some financial regulations without legislators’ blessing.

Investors pulled $1.3 billion from bank sector funds during the week, earlier data from Lipper showed, the worst week of outflows for those funds since July 2015.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Leslie Adler