Jeff GundlachMorningstar said Thursday that long-term mutual funds had estimated inflows of $243 billion in 2012, more than three times last year’s inflows of $75 billion.

Assets in taxable-bond funds more than doubled, hitting roughly $2.5 trillion and representing 65% of the increase in net inflows, the fund research group said. Total long-term fund assets are close to $9.3 trillion, while money-market funds top $2.6 trillion.

As for fund managers and flow levels, “Jeffrey Gundlach was able to finish a nose ahead of Bill Gross to take the flows crown for 2012,” said Syl Flood, in the report on 2012 estimated fund flows. “Neutral-rated DoubleLine Total Return Bond amassed $19.6 billion in new flows in 2012, while gold-rated PIMCO Total Return attracted $18 billion of fresh investor capital.”

PIMCO's Bill Gross. (Photo: AP)When the PIMCO Total Return ETF (BOND) is added to the asset mix, though, Gross (right) moves way ahead, since the ETF attracted $3.8 billion in 2012, adds Flood. “Both funds were top-quartile performers in their categories in 2012, but the DoubleLine I share class has bested PIMCO Total Return Institutional (PTTRX) over the trailing two-year period,” he wrote.

“Investors’ current love affair with bond funds dates back to 2007, when municipal and taxable bonds attracted $106 billion to stocks’ … $97 billion,” the fund expert noted. When municipal-bond funds are included in the fixed-income mix, the category’s fund inflows have grown by about $1 trillion since the beginning of 2008.

Fund Families

On a combined basis, Vanguard and PIMCO captured 61% of net flows in 2012 versus 30% in 2011 and 46% in 2009.

“This result isn’t surprising when considered in the context of the secular shift toward passive and the cyclical shift to fixed income,” Flood noted. “Yet the distance these two firms have created between themselves and the rest of the industry is startling.”

When ETFs are added to the mix, Vanguard had almost $140 billion in net flows in 2012.

Without ETF flows, Vanguard drew in $86 billion in net flows to its funds, while PIMCO added nearly $63 billion. The top two families were followed by JPMorgan with almost $26 billion and DoubleLine with close to $22 billion.

Stock-Fund Woes

In 2012, outflows from actively managed U.S.-stock mutual funds surpassed those of 2008, even though the S&P 500 was up 16% last year. When ETF flows are included, large-cap U.S.-stock funds have seen net outflows over the trailing five-year period and in each of the past four years, according to Morgningstar. (Over the past five years, the S&P 500 has improved 8.59%.)

“Investors haven’t just sat out the uneven stock market rally that began in March 2009; they have run from it and never looked back,” Flook said.

Morningstar also says December was the only month in 2012 when net outflows—which totaled $10.7 billion— took place. The research group says daily flow data for this year are showing “very strong inflows across all asset classes through Jan. 14,” with taxable-bond and international-stock funds “leading the charge, but strongly positive U.S.-stock funds have been the big surprise.”