Mutual Funds See Outflows, but Not as Bad as August

U.S. mutual fund investors withdrew an estimated $5 billion out of U.S. stock and bond mutual funds last month, according to Strategic Insight, an Asset International company.

That marked a significant improvement from August, when such long-term funds saw $33.6 billion in net outflows.  

While fund shareholders continued to be uneasy over the global economy, domestic unemployment and other issues, investors pulled back from the spike in anxiety seen in August, which followed the historic downgrade of the U.S. debt rating by Standard & Poor’s, SI said. In total, the third quarter of 2011 saw $55 billion in net outflows from U.S. stock and bond mutual funds; that was down from the $51 billion in net inflows to long-term funds experienced in Q2 of 2011, and was the worst quarter for long-term fund flows since Q4 of 2008 (when long-term mutual funds saw $187 billion in net outflows).    

September’s net outflows came amid difficult market conditions. The S&P 500 Index fell 7% in September; the key benchmark dropped 13.9% in the third quarter, its biggest quarterly drop since 2008. U.S. Equity Funds saw net outflows of $15 billion in September. This was partly offset by nearly $6 billion in net inflows to International/global equity funds in September.   

In September, taxable bond funds took in net flows of $3 billion, a turnaround from August’s net outflows of nearly $10 billion. Investors continued to seek income and less-risky means of participating in financial markets. And as worries over municipal defaults eased, tax-free bond funds drew nearly $2 billion in net inflows in September. 

Money market mutual funds saw net outflows of roughly $11 billion in September, down from the net inflows of $69 billion they experienced in August, as the easing of anxiety in September halted investors’ flight to the safety of money funds.   

In the first nine months of 2011, U.S. stock funds saw net outflows of almost $37 billion, and international equity funds saw net inflows of $49 billion. Taxable bond funds drew $94 billion in net inflows through the first nine months of the year, while tax-free bond funds saw net outflows of $22 billion in that time.   

“Months of market volatility have left U.S. fund holders feeling more pessimistic. Risk aversion, as seen in the weak demand for U.S. equity funds, will be a persistent theme among investors,” commented Avi Nachmany, SI’s Director of Research, in a press release. “We therefore expect demand for certain individual actively managed US equity funds that offer downside protection, risk controls or tactical flexibility.”  

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