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'Trade deal trauma' sees investors pull $20 billion from stocks in a week

Key Points
  • Investors pulled $20.5 billion from global equity funds in the week that ended Wednesday.
  • Stock outflows have reached $116 billion  this year.
  • $7.3 billion flowed into bonds in the last week.
Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Investors pulled more than $20.5 billion from global equities in the past week, showing the impact of trade tensions between the U.S. and China on confidence in financial markets.

A regular note on fund flows from analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch revealed that cash leaving equity funds in the week that ended Wednesday was the third highest this year. It came as President Donald Trump ratcheted up a drawn-out trade dispute between the world's two-largest economies by threatening further tariffs on Chinese goods.

U.S. equity funds saw outflows of $14 billion, the largest since Jan. 30, BAML said, citing data from flow tracking specialist EPFR. EPFR looks at institutional and individual investor flows and how they impact global markets. European funds saw $2.5 billion in outflows last week, while $1.3 billion was withdrawn from emerging market equities, with BAML saying the moves reflected "trade deal trauma."

In total, equity fund outflows have now reached $116 billion in 2019, on course for the worst year since 2016, the research said.

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Bonds, which are perceived as a safe haven in times of market distress, saw an 18th consecutive week of inflows with $7.3 billion piling in over the past week. BAML analysts identified mortgage-backed securities, emerging-market debt and high-yield bonds as drawing the most inflows, reflecting what it terms an ongoing "lust for yield" amid an unanticipated drop in bond yields.

Global stock markets have seen heavy selling this week as the tensions between Washington and Beijing escalated. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen more than 650 points this week, while the S&P 500 has lost about 2.5%.

After a warning from Trump on Sunday, the U.S. hiked tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday. In response, Beijing said it "deeply regrets" the tariff hike and would take countermeasures — though no specifics were provided.

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