Time for a reality check

Investors pull back from emerging market funds and reassess whether there is truly cause to be optimistic on the global economic front.

Investors are starting to question whether taking a more positive outlook on the potential for global economic recovery will end up hurting them, as an extremely bullish nothing-can-go-wrong attitude did pre-crisis.

A run that began in early March ended for emerging markets funds tracked by EPFR Global during the week ending June 24 as investors pulled a net $1.87 billion out of Asia ex-Japan, Latin America , Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and diversified global emerging markets equity funds.

Doubts about the timing of a recovery in the global economy also hurt high-yield bond and global equity funds, which saw an end to inflow streaks of 14 and seven weeks, respectively. Money market and US bond funds absorbed $25.9 billion and $1.72 billion, respectively, in net inflows.

Overall, equity funds posted a net outflow of $4.12 billion for the week ending June 24, while fixed-income funds other than money market funds posted a net outflow of $1.94 billion.

The reversal of flows into emerging markets equity funds going into the final week of June was most pronounced among Asia ex-Japan and Latin America equity funds, which surrendered net outflows of $660 million and $457 million, respectively, as investors questioned where and when demand for their manufactured and commodity exports will pick up.

Investors pulled a net $262 million out of China equity funds -- the biggest weekly outflow since the first week of March -- plus another $175 million out of Greater China equity funds. Although China has deployed a range of policies in the hopes of sustaining a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of more than 8%, foreign demand remains weak and earnings are still under pressure.

Funds investing in markets dependent on the commodity story also suffered, with Russia and Brazil equity funds posting outflows for the first time in 15 and 12 weeks, respectively. India equity funds also recorded outflows, although dedicated Brazil, Russia, India and China (Brics) equity funds extended their current winning run.

US equity funds posted modest outflows for the third time in four weeks, with large-cap growth funds the only general sub-group to take in fresh money. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) investing in US financial stocks also attracted strong flows.

In Europe, confidence in the region's financial plays was bolstered by the European Central Bank's willingness to pump fresh liquidity into the sector. But Europe equity funds posted another week of outflows, their fourth straight, with the bulk of the $602 million worth of redemptions occurring in funds with a regional mandate. Macroeconomic numbers for Europe remain grim, with the service and manufacturing sectors still contracting and rising unemployment adding to the pressure on consumer demand.

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