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Globe Investor Investors pull more than $20-billion out of stocks as pessimism takes hold

Global equity funds saw massive outflows this week, a sharp reversal from last week’s inflows as pessimism over economic growth gripped investors once again, driving them instead to search for yield in credit and buy safer assets like bonds.

Some $20.7 billion was pulled from equity funds in the week to March 20, while $12.1 billion was plowed into bond funds, the biggest inflows since January 2018, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) strategists said on Friday citing data from EPFR.

Despite big gains for stocks globally this year, positioning is decidedly negative with $66.8 billion outflows from equity funds year-to-date.

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Investors are hunting for yield, the strategists said, noting the ninth straight week of inflows to investment-grade bond funds – $6.6 billion this week – while high-yield bond funds drew in $3.2 billion and $1.2 billion went into EM debt.

The market is struggling to digest a rapid about-turn from the U.S. Federal Reserve on interest rates as economic growth disappoints globally and fears of a deflationary environment return.

“Extraordinary abrupt end to central bank hiking cycle & Fed paranoia of credit event are uber-bullish credit & uber-bearish volatility,” the strategists wrote.

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