(Reuters) – Investors withdrew record amounts of money from bond and equity funds in March while money market funds showed record inflows, as the prospect of a massive economic downturn due to coronavirus rattled nerves, according to the latest data from Lipper.
While investors withdrew $132.6 billion from stock and mixed equity funds – a record outflow going back to at least 2008 – they also pulled an unprecedented $265 billion from bond funds in the same timeframe, according to Lipper.
Although bonds are often seen as a safer bet than equities in a downturn, people were so “ultra nervous” they became concerned about whether even high quality debt could be serviced because of the downturn, according to Tom Roseen, the head of research services at Refinitiv Lipper.
“It’s mom and pop investors saying they were concerned the bond funds could go into default and they’d lose their money,” said Roseen.
But he noted that record inflows of $681 billion into money market funds showed investors were still not ready to put their cash under the mattress. Money market funds hold debt instruments with maturities of less than a year with the average maturities being around 90 days, Roseen said.
“People are still wanting to put money to work somewhere. Once the market starts turning around a lot of people will be ready to put money back to work,” Roseen said.
The massive flows into money market funds meant that purchasers of mutual fund assets, for the second consecutive month, put $283.7 billion into conventional funds, which exclude Exchange Trade Funds.
Reporting by Sinéad Carew; Editing by Tom Brown