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Investors pull billions from stock funds for 3rd straight week: Lipper

[NEW YORK] Investors yanked US$5.2 billion from stock mutual funds in the United States during the sharply volatile week that ended Jan 20, Lipper data showed on Thursday, marking three consecutive weeks of outflows.

World stocks and corporate credits came under severe selling pressure as oil sank below US$27 a barrel to its lowest level since 2003.

High-yield junk bond funds were at the epicenter of the market anxiety, and they posted US$2 billion in outflows, their third straight week not taking in net new money, according to Lipper.

"It's been a bad start to the year across the board," said Lipper research analyst Pat Keon. "With that type of volatility it seemed to be a lot of emotion-based trading out there that's causing these swings." Investors pulled US$412 million from taxable-bond funds during the weekly period, Lipper said, a relatively small figure but one that nonetheless delivered the funds their ninth straight week of withdrawals.

Altogether, taxable-bond funds have bled US$42.3 billion over their nine-week streak of outflows, which started Nov 19, Lipper data showed. Investors have pulled US$25.6 billion from US stock funds over the last three weeks; over the last week those funds lost US$3.5 billion to investor withdrawals, according to the data.

Risk assets rebounded a bit on Thursday, providing new hope to investors that the worst may be over. And ETF investors were willing to take on some risk in bonds during the weekly period measured by Lipper, blunting the impact of US$2.6 billion in outflows from mutual fund investors. Taxable-bond ETFs took in US$2.2 billion over the same period, the data showed.

But continued fears of China's economic slowdown, weakening corporate prospects in the United States and uncertainty over intervention by monetary policymakers weighed on see-sawing financial markets.

Non-domestic-focused stock funds posted US$1.7 billion in outflows during the week ended Jan. 20, breaking a three-week streak of inflows, Lipper said.

Emerging-market stock funds posted US$1 billion in outflows over the period, their largest weekly outflows in a month. Emerging-market debt funds posted their 13th straight week of outflows. And international and global debt funds posted their second straight week of outflows, the Lipper figures showed.

Lower-risk bond funds took in money. Treasury funds, holding bonds backed by a US government guarantee, took in US$2.5 billion, their best result since April 2015. Precious metals funds, seen as a safe haven, attracted their second straight week of inflows, Lipper said.

Relatively low-risk money market funds posted US$7.5 billion in withdrawals over the period, data from the fund research service showed.

The Lipper fund flow data is compiled from reports issued by US-domiciled mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.