Some bank brokerage and mutual fund executives reported strong mutual fund sales in February, as investors continued to largely ignore bond funds in their stampede for equities.

"People are just pouring money into stock mutual funds at an increasing rate, especially since IRA season is here," said Norm Kempf, who heads the brokerage arm of German American Bancorp of Jasper, Ind.

Mutual fund sales at the brokerage have increased about 25% each month since January, he said.

And despite a rocky ride for stock prices, some bank brokerage chiefs said March has turned out even better than February.

Industrywide net new cash flow in stock funds rose 30.9% in February, to $53.55 billion, from $40.91 billion in January, according to a monthly study released Thursday by the Investment Company Institute. Net new cash flow takes into account sales, redemptions, and exchanges.

Mutual fund assets overall rose 4.2%, to $7.060 trillion, according to the survey, which tracked 7,886 funds.

"It's all about performance," said David Haywood, director of research at Boston-based Financial Research Corp., which released similar data Wednesday. Investors are chasing performance, and fund groups are touting it, he said.

Equity funds accounted for about 75% of sales last month at New Orleans-based Hibernia Corp.'s brokerage arm, said Merritt Talbot, president of Hibernia Investment Securities Inc. He said the brokerage sold about $16 million of mutual funds in February, which is about equal to January.

Audrey Mistor, director of Independence One Mutual Funds, the $1.6 billion-asset proprietary fund family of Michigan National Corp., said investors expressed interest in prime floating-rate funds but most sales have been on the equity side.

Indeed, bond funds suffered outflows of $9.2 billion last month, compared with $12.1 billion in January, said Mr. Haywood of Financial Research. The category has had net redemptions since July 1999, he said.

Meanwhile March sales were stronger than February's at firms such as Intrust Financial Corp. of Wichita, Kan. Hugo Ernst, president of the banking company's brokerage arm, said interest rate jitters were partly to blame for a 31% drop in his company's fund sales in February.

But investors overcame those worries, he said, and in March fund sales were up 50% from the previous month and 14% from January. People "are starting to take another look at funds made up of Old Economy stocks as opposed to only technology funds," he said.

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