Some bank mutual fund and brokerage executives reported strong sales in January, but February may be another story.

Net new cash flow into all mutual funds - which takes into account new sales, redemptions, and exchanges - was $63 billion in January, according to a monthly study by the Investment Company Institute in Washington. That was up from $34 billion in December.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of new sales were in equity funds, which had net inflows of $40 billion in January - a one-month record - compared with $24 billion in December. However, assets held in stock mutual funds declined by $92.48 billion in January, which the institute attributed to volatility in stock prices.

"I think what we're seeing is everybody putting money back into the market," said Mark Beeson, president of One Group Administrative Services Co. at Bank One Corp. of Chicago.

In December, many investors were selling municipal bond funds, and in January they put the proceeds into equity funds, he said. Almost 85% of One Group's new sales were in equity funds, he said.

One Group's sales rose rise 35% from December and nearly 20% from a year earlier, Mr. Beeson added.

Donald Renick, vice president of BB&T Investment Services Inc., said fund sales at BB&T Corp.'s brokerage arm were up 43% in January from the previous month and 56% from January 1999.

He attributed the month's increase to people's getting over the Y2K scare. Immediately after the first of the year, sales picked up significantly, he said. Indeed, sales may have been higher were it not for a snowstorm that knocked out about half of the sales force for a week at Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T.

"I know we were hurt a little bit by that," he said.

But some observers said that February is shaping up as a shaky month for fund sales thanks to the recent selloff in the stock market. Fund sales at BB&T, for example, are down about 12% from January. "We're seeing some hesitancy on the clients because of the market acting crazy," Mr. Renick said.

Paul Mann, president of First Tennessee Brokerage Inc., a unit of Memphis-based First Tennessee National Corp., agreed. "I'm starting to see some caution out there," he said.

Still, Mr. Beeson of One Group said he has seen improvement toward the end of the month. Though February started slowly, he said, sales of Bank One's proprietary family through Feb. 24 were equal to its January sales.

Amy L. Anderson contributed to this article.


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