U.S. stock funds attract most cash since mid-2017 -ICI

NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - U.S. fund investors steered the most cash since mid-2017 into stocks, Investment Company Institute (ICI) data for the most recent week showed on Wednesday, as cool economic data drew hot money into the market. A week after pulling billions from U.S.-based equity funds, investors turned on a dime during the seven days ended March 14. A jobs report during that period showed strong gains in employment but not in wages, suggesting muted pressure on prices and profits. That gave fast-money traders an excuse for exuberance, with $25.2 billion rolling into U.S.-based equity funds during the week, according to the ICI, a trade group. That is the most cash since June 2017. U.S.-based technology sector stock funds took in $2 billion during the same period, the most since the tech mania of the year 2000, Thomson Reuters' Lipper research unit reported last week. Bond funds, meanwhile, pulled in $8.4 billion, the most cash in six weeks, ICI said. The reporting period does not include the market swings of more recent trading days, including a steep slide in Facebook Inc shares this week on data privacy concerns. Economic data released after the stock fund inflows has also showed more evidence of inflation, with the largest gain in imported consumer goods prices recorded since 2014. The data supports concerns that a weaker U.S. dollar and the Trump administration's tough talk on trade could put push prices but not economic output higher, potentially forcing a destabilizing set of rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Those may be problems for another day. In the meantime, the economy is supporting markets, said Thomas Melendez, investment officer at MFS Investment Management, the fund brand of the Massachusetts Financial Services Co. "We seem to be in a pretty decent spot economically," he said. "We're seeing growth from all parts of the world." The following table shows estimated ICI flows for mutual funds and ETFs (all figures in million of dollars):

3/14 3/7 2/28 2/21 2/14/2018 Equity 25,219 -6,453 11,703 2,505 1,517 Domestic 19,080 -10,974 6,397 -4,899 -7,562 World 6,139 4,521 5,306 7,405 9,079 Hybrid -611 -500 -422 -965 -1,456 Bond 8,440 1,521 5,177 4,452 -12,114 Taxable 7,737 1,307 5,067 3,970 -11,474 Municipal 703 214 110 481 -640 Commodity 30 210 278 477 189 Total 33,079 -5,222 16,736 6,469 -11,864

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Bernadette Baum)