The flowing and ebbing resulted in a net $32-billion outflow for the month, considerably lower than the dollars picked up by mutual funds in March. This was due in large part to the large withdrawal of cash investors make every April, according to the monthly mutual fund flow report from Lipper, Inc.
The $55 billion in net outflows essentially equaled that of 2000’s April and was larger than the $30 billion average in the four years’ Aprils prior to this. As in recent periods, institutional share classes continued to represent a significant part of total flows, $25 billion, with the $30 billion attributed to the renewed net buying of equity funds.
While investors did not have large 2002 capital gains on which to pay taxes, the tax cut was implemented in a way that lowered paycheck-withholding rates during last year. That, together with the widening jaws of the Alternative Minimum Tax and the many recently laid-off persons who are freelancing and have estimated-tax payments due, raised the need for some to make net payments in April, Lipper deduced.
On the bright side, the rush to equities was the largest monthly inflow since the nearly $15 billion inflow last April. Equity funds’ flows for 2003 to date are now slightly positive.
US Diversified funds were in strong favor during April, adding $6.8 billion. However, the inflow was uncharacteristically small as a percentage of the net equity total; normally such funds attract 70% to more than 100% of net new equity money. The surge in net buying was enough though to push every cell in the 12-box matrix of fund categories to the positive side, with a $1.5-billion gain in multi-cap core funds tops among the group.
With the diversion of funds from Diversified, the other major equity fund types thus saw strong inflows of:
- Mixed Equity ($4.2 billion)
- World Equity ($1.9 billion)
- S&P 500 Index ($600 million)
- Sector Equity ($500 million).
Healthy inflow totals into bond funds continued in April, although the estimated $9 billion amount was below March’s number by $2 billion (See Lipper: High-Yield Bond Funds Rule in March ) and well below levels near $20 billion per month while stocks were causing the most gastric discomfort in late 2002 and early 2003. While the total for long-term bond funds was larger, at $6.3 billion, than that for short and intermediate-bond funds, at $2.7 billion, investors really were not making a bet on long rates remaining sanguine.Municipal funds had outflows all across the maturity spectrum, as continued concerns over the fiscal woes of states and localities in a soft economy were the primary culprit. That source of worry overcame the relatively very high yields available on a tax-adjusted basis when these funds are compared with their taxable counterparts.