U.S. Markets

U.S. mutual fund investors put most cash in foreign equity in nearly five months: ICI

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors in U.S.-based mutual funds poured $3.2 billion into funds that specialize in foreign shares, their biggest inflows since August, in the latest weekly period potentially on views that overseas shares offer greater upside than U.S. stocks.

The inflows for the week ended Jan. 13 marked the second straight week of cash commitments to the funds after the funds posted outflows in the last seven weeks of 2015, the data released Wednesday from the Investment Company Institute showed.

Funds that specialize in U.S. shares posted $4.8 billion in outflows to mark their biggest withdrawals in four weeks and their 16th straight week of outflows, according to the data from ICI, a U.S. mutual fund trade organization.

Those withdrawals led to total stock fund outflows of $1.6 billion, or the 12th straight week of outflows.

Bond funds posted $527 million in outflows, returning to a streak of withdrawals after attracting a meager $55 million in inflows the prior week. The previous week’s small inflows were the first new cash commitments in nine weeks.

European and Japanese stocks offer greater upside than U.S. shares since the U.S. economy and stock market have had more time to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, while shares in those regions outside the United States have yet to recover fully from recent economic slumps, said Tom Siomades, head of Hartford Funds Investment Consulting Group in Radnor, Pennsylvania.

He said the outflows from bond funds likely reflected investors’ aversion to riskier high-yield bonds given recent market turmoil. The benchmark U.S. S&P 500 stock index plunged 2.7 percent over the reporting period, partly on worries over a slowdown in China and weak commodities prices.

Hybrid funds, which can invest in stocks and fixed income securities, posted $3.6 billion in outflows to mark their 13th straight week of withdrawals.

The following table shows estimated ICI flows for the past five weeks (all figures in millions of dollars):

1/13/2016 1/6 12/30 12/22 12/16

Total equity -1,559 -2,415 -6,123 -3,923 -11,213

Domestic -4,755 -3,967 -3,051 -1,384 -7,585

World 3,196 1,553 -3,071 -2,539 -3,628

Hybrid -3,562 -2,147 -1,759 -1,610 -5,622

Total bond -527 55 -4,623 -4,571 -12,001

Taxable -1,845 -1,327 -6,872 -5,832 -12,648

Municipal 1,319 1,382 2,249 1,262 647

Total -5,648 -4,507 -12,505 -10,103 -28,836

Reporting by Sam Forgione; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Lisa Shumaker