Investors Back out of Mutual Funds

Terry Flanagan

Recent swings in the U.S. equity markets have sent some investors packing last week, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 600 points.

The big question for market participants is whether or not the sell-off in the equities market will trigger cataclysmic outflows that would signal a return to 2008 outflows. Such memories of the past have left many mutual fund managers anxiously awaiting the ripple effects of investor withdrawal.

Although the rest of August has yet to be measured, there are more indications this time around that the markets are more positive about the market’s recent downdraft. Thus, participants anxious about a repeat of 2008 can breathe a bit easier.

For the week ending on August 3, long-term mutual funds experienced an estimated 13 billion of outflows from funds categorized as total equity (global and domestic), according to data compiled by the Investment Company Institute (ICI). Hybrid funds experienced a withdrawal of almost an estimate of 2 billion and total bond outflows (global and domestic) was estimated at a total of three billion in outflows.

“The last two weeks of larger outflows in equity/domestic equity funds were at levels we haven’t seen since late May 2010 and prior to that, March 2009,” said an unnamed source from the ICI.

These numbers tread lightly when stacked against the monthly outflows recorded by the ICI near year end in 2008, an ultra low point for mutual funds. October of 2008 featured 72 billion in withdrawals for total equity mutual funds, and 41 billion in withdrawals for total bond funds. Friday, August 12, concluded an up day in the roller-coaster of U.S trading, even propelling some managers to feel a rally ahead. Monthly withdrawals in 2008 paint a much ghastlier scene for mutual funds, compared to August 2011 levels.

“Outflows from equity funds are not uncommon during periods of stock market turbulence. It’s important to note that outflows in these funds for the week ended August 3 represented 0.2 percent of equity fund assets,” said Brian Reid, the ICI’s chief economist.

The ICI is a lobbying body, founded in 1940, for those in the fund industry. The firm participates in advancing the interests of funds, their shareholders, directors, and investment advisers; and promoting public understanding of mutual funds and other investment companies.


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