NEW YORK - Alliance Capital Management is joining the growing number of firms that are turning to utility funds.

The New York-based mutual fund company is rolling out its open-end Utility Income Fund this month.

Alliance, with over $100 billion in assets under management, offers more than 80 mutual funds. It added a utility offering because the "expansion of the global economy should increase the demand for utilities and, over time, growth in the value of utility securities," said marketing vice president Linda Finnerty.

Interest in utility funds has heated up this year. The number of utility funds jumped from 42 to 51 between New Year's Eve and July 31, according to Lipper Analytical Services Inc.

Assets Up by 32.2%

In the same period, $8 billion in gross assets flowed into utility funds. By the end of July, $25.3 billion of assets was invested in them, up from $17.4 billion on Dec. 31.

The increase, 32.2%, was nearly twice that of all equity funds, 17.5%.

The Alliance Utility Income Fund, which will be distributed through banks as well as brokers, financial planners, and insurance agents, will be available with front-end, back-end, or level-load sale$ charges, giving banks flexibility in paying their sales representatives.

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