Equities Lose 401(k) Participant Assets in May

Defined contribution (DC) plan participants transferred monies from equities into fixed-income investments as the stock markets dropped substantially during May, Aon Hewitt found.

According to the results of the Aon Hewitt 401(k) Index, 64% of the days had transfer activities that favored fixed-income funds during the month. In sum, nearly $140 million moved from diversified equities (equity excluding company stock) into fixed-income investments.  

International equity funds lost $44 million (24%) in net transfers, followed by pre-mixed funds ($34 million, 19%) and small U.S. equity funds ($29 million, 16%). Seventy percent of the transferred assets went into bond funds, netting an additional $126 million. Although major equity indices were down markedly, company stock funds experienced positive flows for the first month since September 2011, totaling $47 million.  

The overall equity allocation in the Index was down 1.5 percentage points, to 58.9% at the end of May, from 60.4% at the end of April, because of market weakness and changes in participant behavior. Another measure of participant sentiment is discretionary contributions (employee only contributions). In total, 61.3% of employee discretionary contributions were directed to equities by the end of May, down from 62.2% in April.  

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