Although stocks repeatedly hit new all-time highs in 2019, individual investors are signaling growing anxiety about the market’s ability to keep climbing, and many have been bailing out of equity mutual funds. Investors pulled a record $220 billion from U.S. stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in 2019 through December 4, according to financial data firm Refinitiv Lipper. The majority of the outflow came from mutual funds, many of which have underperformed the major stock indexes and charge higher fees than exchange-traded funds.
“There’s not a lot of faith in this market,” Wells Fargo strategist Scot Wren told The Wall Street Journal. “There’s no chasing going on.”
Indeed, the American Association of Individual Investors’ sentiment survey showed only 36 percent of investors were bullish on stocks during the eight-week period ending December 5.
Meanwhile, investors are pouring money into less volatile, fixed-income investments, adding $277 billion into U.S. bond funds and $483 billion into money market funds, an 11-year high, through early December. The inflows into bond and money market mutual funds came in spite of the fact that both types of funds offer low yields. The 10-year Treasury note, for example, was yielding just 1.8 percent in early December, and virtually all money market funds have yields under two percent. In contrast, gold, an excellent hedge against stock market volatility, had scored a year-to-date gain of 11 percent as of December 9.
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