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U.S. Stocks: Lackluster Year From Overseas Investing

As we near the end of the year, the S&P is up a measly 2 percent. If it ends here, it will be the worst year since 2002. One reason for a lackluster year in stocks has been the complete and utter indifference of the Ameican investor to U.S. stocks. To be blunt, U.S. investors are sticking all their cash in overseas funds.

Here are the facts: This year, U.S. equity funds will see outflows of $50 billion, but will see inflows of $130 billion into international funds (data from TrimTabs).

That is the biggest outflows ever and the worst year for U.S. equity funds since 2002, when there were outflows of $25 billion. This is not a trivial drop; there's currently about $5.2 trillion in U.S. equity funds, so outflows of $50 billion means 1 percent of the total value of U.S. equity funds has been withdrawn this year.

Bear in mind this happened in a year where the market has not even declined. One reason the market hasn't dropped is that corporations have been active buyers; just look at Goldman Sachs , who bought back 10 percent of their stock this year!

Compare this to the gains in international funds. There's about $1.8 trillion in international equity funds, so that $130 billion going in this year means a nearly 8 percent increase in assets.

Elsewhere, U.S. investors are still quite active. For example, U.S. bond funds have had $108 billion in inflows. There's about $2.4 trillion in bond funds (ex-money market funds), so that's an increase of about 4 percent.

What about hedge funds? They too are seeing inflows--roughly $280 billion in inflows this year (they have roughly $2.2 trillion under management). Much of this seems to be coming from abroad, as foreign investors dump money into fund of funds (who turn around and invest in hedge funds).



Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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