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Investors flee UK equity funds for bonds

Written by: Emma Lunn
Fixed income was the highest selling asset class for the fourth month in a row, with net retail sales reaching £2.4bn, according to The Investment Association (IA).

The trade body examined how savers invested their money in June. It found that investors pulled £744m from UK equity funds in the month amid the ongoing debate about who our next Prime Minister would be, fears of a no-deal Brexit, and nerves surrounding the suspension of Neil Woodford’s Woodford Equity Income fund. The June figure is the highest monthly redemption for more than a year.

Over the past three months, investors have ploughed £5.7bn into tracker funds, while active strategies have suffered net withdrawals of £239m.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, said: “2019 has so far been a game of two halves in the fund market. Following £900m of outflows in the first quarter, savers returned in the second quarter to place £5.5bn into funds. Bond funds in particular saw a dramatic bounce back following the sell-off in the fourth quarter of last year, with net inflows of £4.8bn in the second quarter of 2019.

“The picture is less positive for UK equities with political uncertainty remaining high. The brief respite from outflows in May proved short-lived and the year-to-date has been characterised by ongoing outflows.”

According to investment platform AJ Bell, of the FTSE 100, the 50 most domestically-focused companies have handed investors a 13 per cent loss since the start of 2016, while the 50 companies who get more of their earnings from overseas have returned more than 40 per cent. Over the past year the overseas-focused companies have risen slightly, while the domestic stocks have continued to fall around 8 per cent.

Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at AJ Bell, said:  “Bond funds were back in favour in June instead, seeing £2.4bn of inflows to the sector, taking the total inflows to almost £6bn so far this year. What’s more, around £1.1bn flowed into UK Strategic Bond funds alone in June, the largest inflows since November 2017.

“Bringing up the rear and keeping its mantle as the most unloved sector, Absolute Return funds saw yet another £500m pulled by investors during the month. Total outflows over the past year are now nearing £6bn, with some of the behemoth funds dwindling in size.

“Standard Life GARS, for example, has seen almost £10bn withdrawn over the past year, while Merian Global Equity Absolute Return fund has clocked up £4bn of outflows. Many of the funds seeing the largest outflows have failed to deliver above-inflation returns, with investors voting with their feet and heading for the exit.”

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