Funds that focus on U.S. equities ended an eight-month period of withdrawals last week, signaling investors are regaining confidence in the economic recovery, according to estimates from the Investment Company Institute.
Flows turned positive in the week ended Dec. 21, when investors added $335 million to American equity funds, the Washington-based firm said in a report yesterday. They sent $3.6 billion to U.S.-based funds that invest overseas. Before last week, about $90 billion was pulled from U.S. equity mutual funds since the start of May, when a 20-minute plunge briefly erased $862 billion from the value of U.S. stocks.
Americans are coming back to stocks after the Federal Reserved signaled it would support the economy by buying more bonds and third-quarter earnings reports showed results that beat estimates. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has gained 23 percent since July 2, including a 6.7 percent advance since Nov. 30, the biggest December rally since 1991.
“When the stock market works its way higher, people feel better and have the sense that it’s safe to commit assets to the equity market,” said Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust Co., which manages $6.5 billion in Radnor, Pennsylvania. “The market is reflecting today that the double-dip scenario is an unlikely one, and I think what’s not priced into the market is the real possibility that GDP growth might be a little bit better than way below average, as it’s expected.”
Economists had cut their 2011 forecast for U.S. gross domestic product growth to as low as 2.4 percent in November from 3.1 percent in May, according to 65 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. They have since raised their estimate to 2.6 percent. Growth slowed to a rate of 2.6 percent in the three months ended in September from as much as 5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, less than a year earlier.
While money has been coming out of equity funds, bond funds have seen inflows every week since the middle of December 2008, according to ICI data. About $634 billion has gone into bond funds January 2009, according to estimates and monthly figures from ICI.
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