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Climbing the wall of worry in mid-August

Despite weaker consumer data, discussion of tapering among policymakers at the US Federal Reserve, fresh outbreaks of the Covid-19 Delta variant and the Taliban’s stunning victory in Afghanistan, the money kept flowing to EPFR-tracked funds during the third week of August. Equity Funds recorded their biggest collective inflow since the second week of June, year-to-date flows to all Bond Funds pushed over the $550 billion mark and Balanced Funds saw their current inflow streak hit eight weeks and $21 billion.

For much of the week ending August 18 a stellar second quarter corporate earnings season and the prospect of further hefty boosts to the already formidable amount of fiscal stimulus deployed by the US provided investors climbing the current “wall of worry” with handholds. Modest amounts moved out of both Japan and Europe Money Market Funds – in the case of the latter for the first time in nearly two months -- as investors put money to work.

Although retail cash has been leaving US Money Market Funds consistently since mid-February, the overall pace of outflows offers lukewarm support – at best – to the pent-up consumer demand narrative. While both the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and the Covid pandemic triggered a “dash for cash” that saw money pour into liquidity funds, the pattern of flows once this flight to cash peaked has differed.

Starting in March 2009, it took only five months for redemptions to erase the influx of cash that US Money Market Funds had seen in 4Q08 and 1Q09. By mid-2010, over $400 billion had flowed out of this fund group in just 16 months. That story is not, so far, repeating itself as the Covid-19 pandemic plays out. Since June 2020 around $135 billion of the more than $1 trillion that flowed in during March, April and May last year has been redeemed. Indeed, net flows to US Money Market Funds YTD are positive.




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