U.S. stock funds attract most cash since 2014: Lipper

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors poured $24.1 billion into U.S.-based stock funds in the week to Dec. 27, Lipper said on Thursday, sending a gift to equity markets already on pace to record a year of double-digit percentage gains.

This marks the largest week of inflows for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) collectively since December 2014, according to the Thomson Reuters research service, and comes after U.S. lawmakers finalized a massive corporate tax cut that markets admired.

Cash is also shuffling around during a typically active period for funds, despite holidays, as investors plan for taxes and report end-of-year performance statistics. Equity fund outflows totaled $22.2 billion the week prior.

The flow result counters the dominant trend in U.S.-based funds this year – a reticence to buy stocks at home despite an S&P 500 index poised to deliver a 2017 return of more than 20 percent.

Domestic stock funds posted an estimated $23.4 billion in outflows for the year, according to Lipper, compared to $165 billion inflows for their counterparts invested abroad and $283 billion inflows for funds for taxable bonds.

“You see people attracted to equities, but they’re not backing up the truck to buy equities at 20-times earnings,” said David Lafferty, chief market strategist at Natixis Investment Managers, referring to the seemingly rich price-to-earnings ratio of the S&P 500. “I don’t see any euphoria.”

This week, though, domestic equity funds pulled in nearly $18 billion, compared to $6.4 billion to their internationally oriented peers, according to Lipper.

Healthcare stock funds, however, posted their seventh straight week of outflows. The U.S. tax bill repealed a requirement that most Americans have insurance or face penalties.

Taxable bond funds were hit with a rare week of withdrawals. High-yield bonds, invested in more speculative corporate debt, recorded $240 million in outflows during the week, Lipper said, while lower-risk Treasury funds pulled in $567 million. Money-market funds, where investors park cash, took in $19.3 billion.

Funds based in the United States but focused on Chinese stocks took in $408 million during the week, the largest inflows since June 2015, during a week in which strong demand for copper seemed to presage growth in the emerging market and around the world. [MKTS/GLOB]

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Richard Chang and James Dalgleish

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