(Bloomberg News) Investors have pulled more money from U.S. equity funds since the end of April than in the five months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., adding to the $2.1 trillion rout in American stocks.
About $75 billion was withdrawn from funds that focus on shares during the past four months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade group, and EPFR Global, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Outflows totaled $72.8 billion from October 2008 through February 2009, following Lehman's bankruptcy, the data show.
Bears say investors are abandoning stock managers because there's no end in sight to the decline that pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 Index within 2.1 percentage points of a bear market in August. Bulls say the retreat by individuals has been a reason to buy since the bull market began in March 2009 and withdrawals mean money is available to buy stocks in the future.
"When we're getting close to a market bottom, the phone starts ringing off the hook and our clients want us to sell everything," Bruce McCain, who helps manage $22 billion as chief investment strategist at the private-banking unit of KeyCorp, said in a phone interview on Sept. 14. "Market bottoms are less about an improvement in the fundamental situation, whether the economy or outlook for earnings, and a lot more about getting rid of all the anxious investors."
About $177.7 billion has been removed during the past 30 months from mutual and exchange-traded funds that invest in U.S. shares as the benchmark gauge for American equity rallied as much as 102 percent, before falling 17.9 percent through Aug. 8. Investors pumped in $18.7 billion during the first four months of 2011, before removing about four times that amount since, according to the average of data from EPFR and ICI, the money managers' trade group. The August estimate doesn't include ETF data from ICI.
Bond funds added $42.3 billion from the end of April through July and started posting weekly outflows last month, according to ICI. Since the bull market began, fixed-income managers have received a net $666.4 billion.
The last time equity fund outflows exceeded $40 billion during a four-month period was in August 2010, the data show. The S&P 500, which completed a 16 percent decline the previous month, went on to gain 13 percent through November. Monthly outflows in the last two years exceeded $10 billion seven different times. The S&P 500 advanced the next month in five of those cases, according to Bloomberg data.
The stock index dropped 1.6 percent to 1,196.40 at 9:34 a.m. New York time today.
AllianceBernstein Holding LP's assets under management slipped 5 percent to $433 billion in August, "with retail in particular affected by the month's volatile capital markets," the New York-based company said in a Sept. 13 statement. Invesco Ltd.'s equity assets fell 7.8 percent to $276.4 billion from July, reflecting the "effects of negative market returns."