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End of tax year prompts record fund sales

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Investors ploughed £4.9bn into UK authorised investment funds in April, a record monthly amount according to the trade body of the UK funds industry.

It is the second month in a row that net fund sales have hit a record, after data from the Investment Association (IA) revealed sales totalled £4bn in March. Meanwhile net fund sales were 50% higher in ISAs and three times higher in pensions than in April 2016.

So what has been behind the surge?

ISA sales have no doubt been boosted by the rising allowance from £15,240 to £20,000 in this tax year. Meanwhile Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said last year’s figures were almost certainly held back by the European Union referendum.

“Investors stashed record amounts into funds around the end of the tax year, as they looked to ISAs and pensions to protect their savings from the taxman,” he said. “Fund sales in these tax shelters are sharply up on last year, so clearly the forthcoming election is not holding back investor activity in the same way the EU referendum did.

“A higher ISA allowance in this tax year will have helped to boost inflows too, along with the government’s decision to slash the dividend allowance, which raises the stakes for income-seekers holding investments outside of a tax shelter.”

Since the shock general election call, the tax-free dividend allowance cut from £5,000 to £2,000, due to take effect from April 2018 has been shelved.

In terms of where this money was being invested, equity funds proved the most popular in April, attracting over £2bn in net retail sales. These were the second highest monthly inflows on record; with the highest being recorded in June 2013 when £2.5bn poured into equity funds.

April’s equity sales were in part driven by sales in the Specialist sector, which topped the table for fund sector inflows at £678m. Khalaf said this can largely be attributed to the launch of the Woodford Income Focus fund which sits in this sector.

Despite the rise in fund flows some bearishness was on show, with the Targeted Absolute Return sector posting the second highest sales behind the Specialist sector. Likewise the Short Term Money Market sector also made the top five most popular sectors.

“There is both bullishness and bearishness evident in fund buyers’ decisions, with equity funds and absolute return funds attracting strong inflows,” Khalaf said. “Money market funds also saw big inflows, though investors may have been using these as a cash park to secure their end of year ISA allowance, while giving themselves a bit of time to make an investment decision.”