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Portfolio > Mutual Funds > Equity Funds

Investors Have ‘Given Up’ on Active US Stock Funds: Morningstar

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Investors have “given up on active management for U.S. equity” states Morningstar’s latest commentary on monthly fund asset flows through the end of January.

Net flows into actively managed U.S. equity funds fell $24.1 billion in January and $211 billion for the 12 months ended Jan. 31, according to Morningstar. In contrast, net flows into passive U.S. equity funds rose by $41.1 billion in January and by $233.5 billion for the 12 months ended Jan. 31.

“Far from running away from the U.S. stock market, investors were eager to embrace it and its stable returns — but in the form of low-cost offerings only, it seems,” according to the Morningstar report.

(Related: Morningstar’s January Winners & Losers) 

Morningstar estimates net flow for mutual funds by computing the change in assets not explained by the performance of the fund and net flow for ETFs by computing the change in shares outstanding.

Net flows into low-cost passive U.S. equity funds and ETFs have been so strong that their total assets as of the end of January had climbed to over 86% of the total assets of actively managed U.S. equity funds.

(Related: Monthly ETF Inflows Reach Record High in January: State Street)

For the second month in a row, State Street’s SPDR S&P 500 index fund (SPY) saw the largest monthly net inflows of any passive U.S. equity fund, accounting for almost half of those inflows in January. Usually the fund sees large inflows in December as portfolio managers park proceeds from sales of equities before year end and large outflows in January as they reallocate those assets. The inflows this January may be another sign of the preference for passively managed funds or they may be an anomaly followed by the net outflows February, notes Morningstar.

Despite the larger inflows into SPY, Vanguard’s S&P 500 Index Fund, the runner-up for net inflows in January, ended the month with $292.4 billion in assets, about 7% more than the total assets of the SPDR S&P 500 index fund.

(Related: Vanguard Launches Its First Actively Managed US ETFs)

Morningstar estimates net flow for mutual funds by computing the change in assets not explained by the performance of the fund and the net flow for ETFs by computing the change in shares outstanding.

The Morningstar report does not cover the stock market rout in February, when the S&P 500 plunged 7% through Feb. 12. It’s since recovered about one-third of those losses. ”It will be very interesting and revealing to see how investors reacted when the February flows data comes out in March,” the report notes.

Unlike U.S. equity funds, actively managed international equity and taxable bond funds saw positive inflows in January and over the one-year period.

Actively managed international equity funds had inflows of $14.6 billion in January, a little more than half the $27.2 billion inflows into passive managed international equity funds, but the combination of both was the largest monthly flows for the category since April 2015.

Over the one-year period, $49.1 billion flowed into actively managed international equity funds  versus $214.6 billion into their passively managed counterparts.

Net inflows into actively managed bond funds were much more evenly matched between active and passive funds. Actively managed bond funds had net inflows of $24.4 billion in January and $193.3 billion for the one-year period compared with $22.6 billion and $210.6 billion, respectively, into passively managed bond funds.

PIMCO Income (PIMIX)  had the biggest net inflows among actively managed taxable bond funds in January, taking in a net near $2.5 billion. Oakmark International saw the biggest net inflows among actively managed international funds, attracting nearly $2.2 billion.

Among passive managed bond funds, Vanguard’s Total Bond Market II Index Funds saw the biggest inflows, attracting net inflows of almost $8 billion.

Overall net flows for mutual funds and ETFs, which also include municipal bond, alternative, commodities, allocation and equity sector funds, totaled $128.1 billion in January, a new monthly record.

Among U.S. fund families, American Funds attracted the most net inflows into actively managed funds, $7.9 billion; Vanguard led for passive fund inflows, attracting net $30.4 billion.

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