Investors dive back into emerging-market funds

No April fool: Global emerging-market equity funds get $1.2 billion of inflows in the first week of the month.

Global emerging-market equity funds received inflows of $1.2 billion in the first week of April, according to EPFR Global. With other asset classes such as high-yield bond funds also recording strong gains, some investors are putting risk back on the table.

Money market funds have posted four straight weeks of outflows, to the tune of $9 billion, says the Boston-based research firm. Year-to-date they have lost $33 billion.

"Emerging markets are, again, getting their due for their better growth prospects and the fiscal reforms they made in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian currency crisis," says Brad Durham, managing director.

Year-to-date, emerging-market funds (both equity and fixed income) have received a net $3.2 billion, compared to $20 billion of net outflows suffered in all of 2008.

The big winner has been diversified global emerging-market funds, which have gained $4.4 billion; Latin America funds have also gained nearly $1 billion. Some fund types have continued to suffer net outflows, however, including Asia ex-Japan (down $889 million year to date) and broad Europe/Middle East/Asia mandates (down $1.3 billion).

Although Asia ex-Japan flows are negative so far, the tide is turning. The first week of April saw Asia ex-Japan equity funds enjoy inflows of $371 million, while Latin America funds turned slightly negative due to jitters over Brazil. China and Bric funds also posted net inflows.

The picture is grim for developed markets, however. During the last two days of March alone, investors pulled $3.8 billion out of US equity funds; outflows continued from Europe and Japan.

In fixed income, high yield bond funds enjoyed net inflows of $4 billion year-to-date, with the last week of March alone witnessing $800 million of net inflow. All bond funds are up $5.7 billion year-to-date, while money-market funds have seen $33 billion go out the door so far. Emerging-market bond funds had a bit of momentum but that has been lost, and in the first week of April investors pulled $141 million from these funds.

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