Equity funds grew at a brisk pace in August, buoyed by investors confidence in both the domestic and global economy, according to statistics released last week by the Investment Company Institute.
Investors accelerated their already robust purchases of domestic and global equity funds as they withdrew money from bond funds of all types, the Washington research group said. Stock mutual funds saw $23.4 billion of new money arrive, a jump from the $17.3 billion influx in July, the institute said. Inflows were strong both in aggressive growth funds, which saw $8.22 billion of new money, up from $6.67 billion in July, and in more moderate growth funds, which gained $11.43 billion, up from $10.37 billion.
Corporate and Treasury fixed-income funds continued to see outflows, though the net asset value of many of these funds grew. Despite the positive performance, investors withdrew $1.3 billion in August.
Municipal bond funds also turned downward. Investors removed $654 million in August, a reversal from the July inflows totaling $881 million.
Hybrid stock and bond funds fared no better. Between redemptions and exchanges, these funds saw $1.3 billion of outflows, the institute said.
Investors aversion to bond funds is surprising, considering that some bonds are outperforming the broader equity market this year, said Phil Foreman, portfolio manager at the Evergreen Funds family of First Union Corp. in Charlotte, N.C.
Many bank brokers who have noticed bonds good performance this year are avoiding bond funds and simply selling the bonds themselves, said Mark Beeson, head of funds at Bank One Investments in Columbus, Ohio.
Watching investors leave funds that have well-performing underlying assets is distressing to fund managers, Mr. Beeson said, because it raises questions about how well fund shareholders are being served. In this market, however, investors are probably moving into equities simply because they have a greater appetite for risk, he added.
Overall, the net value of all funds grew 5.7% in August, to $7.49 trillion, the institute said.
Other statistics released last week showed that some funds that were suffering earlier this year may be turning around. Fidelity Investments whose investors withdrew nearly $3 billion from its equity and fixed-income funds in July saw outflows from those funds subside to $148 million in August, according to Financial Research Corp. in Boston.
However, a Fidelity spokeswoman disputed the research firms numbers, saying the mutual fund company had outflows of only $170 million in its equity and fixed-income funds in July. Financial Research Corp.s numbers are more accurate for August, she said, but underestimated outflows by about $30 million.
T. Rowe Price Investment Services also reversed a slide from earlier in the summer, netting $139 million in new money in August after seeing investors withdraw $222 million in July, Financial Research said. A spokesman for T. Rowe Price said the outflow in July was the result of one or more institutional accounts leaving the company, not retail activity.
T. Rowe Price saw inflows jump substantially in September, the spokesman said. Though the company does not report its numbers, he said sales of its domestic equity funds were up 50% from August.
Financial Research found only $17.3 billion of net inflows to equity funds, compared with the $23.4 billion reported by the ICI, but the two noted similar investing habits among mutual fund shareholders.
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