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U.S.-based muni funds absorb cash for 52nd straight week -ICI

By Trevor Hunnicutt
    Oct 5 Investors piled into U.S. municipal bond
funds for the 52nd straight week, a milestone for debt funds
seen as an acceptable compromise between risk and reward as
trillions of dollars' worth of bonds now yield less than zero.
    Muni funds took in $1.1 billion in the week through Sept.
28, the Washington-based trade group said on Wednesday. Earlier
data showed muni funds took in $63 billion in the 11 months
through August.
    "They look pretty robust relative to the rest of the world,"
said Chad Rach, a portfolio manager at Capital Group in Los
Angeles, which manages American Funds. There are $10.9 trillion
of negative-yielding government bonds, according to Fitch
Ratings data as of Sept. 12. 
    Overall, ICI said U.S.-based bond funds took in $7.8 billion
for the week, continuing a rotation from stocks to bond funds
that has lasted the better part of the year. 
    Rach said that while muni bonds have some risk of issuers
not repaying their debts, they lack the exposure to energy
markets that have haunted high-yield bonds and other areas of
the market. He expects flows to remain strong but said rising
rates are a major risk for the bonds.
    "It's a risk that we're very focused on," he said.
    U.S.-based world stock funds posted $3.7 billion in
outflows, their worst week since fears about China's economy
stoked a global selloff in the week through Aug. 26, 2015. But
that week's $8.3 billion outflow was far higher.
    Strong demand for domestic stock funds pushed overall stock
fund flows positive for the week as they took in $4.2 billion,
according to ICI.
    The following table shows estimated ICI flows, including
ETFs (all figures in millions of dollars):
               9/28    9/21    9/14     9/7  8/31/2016
 Equity       4,190  -4,387  -2,741  -2,670       -913
 -Domestic    7,840  -2,903  -3,393  -2,060       -131
 -World      -3,650  -1,484     652    -610       -782
 Hybrid        -507    -541  -1,524    -873         57
 Bond         7,791   6,479   1,058   6,764      2,526
 -Taxable     6,672   5,599     258   5,524      1,253
 -Municipal   1,118     880     800   1,240      1,274
 Commodity      325     533    -898     458       -601
 Total       11,799   2,085  -4,104   3,680      1,070
 
 (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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