Europe risks, rate hike fears prompt U.S. fund outflows

October 6, 2016 5:28 PM EDT

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By Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors pulled $9.1 billion from U.S.-based stock funds in the latest week, Lipper data showed on Thursday, on growing anxiety about Brexit, the stability of Deutsche Bank AG and the timing of the next U.S. interest rate hike.

This week UK Prime Minister Theresa May said a process to take Britain out of the European Union would start by March 2017 and could be bumpy.

Concerns grew over Deutsche Bank as Germany's largest bank fought a fine of up to $14 billion from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The markets also digested remarks from regional Fed presidents Loretta Mester and Jeffrey Lacker that seemed to hint at a U.S. rate hike sooner rather than later.

Investors lacking confidence are "looking elsewhere to better returns," said Thomson Reuters Lipper research analyst Pat Keon.

That has fueled U.S. fund investors' rotation this year from stocks to bonds, which carries the risk that bonds lose value when rates rise.

Inflation-protected bond funds took in $209 million, the most since July, according to Lipper, as some investors appear to be bracing for a potential cycle of price hikes as rates rise.

Taxable bond funds overall took in $2.9 billion during the seven days through Oct. 5, the data showed. More speculative high-yield debt funds took in $1.9 billion.

Investors turned against utility sector funds again, pulling $390 million as the funds sank by an average of 4.7 percent in their worst showing since August 2015, Lipper said. The funds took in money over the prior two weeks after a punishing seven weeks of outflows.

Dividend-paying utilities had been popular as an alternative to low-yielding bonds this year but could continue to lose their appeal if bond yields rise.

Financial sector funds took in $268 million during the week after four weeks of outflows, the data showed. The sector is seen having more room to boost revenues when rates rise.

Real estate, recently carved out from financials as a separate sector in some major indexes, posted $471 million in withdrawals in their largest week of withdrawals since February, according to Lipper.

The research service also said money-market funds posted $28.5 billion in withdrawals during the week, the largest for those investments since July. This came ahead of reforms that would force some funds to let their share prices float with the market.

Keon said outflows should abate after the regulations take effect next week.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Richard Chang)

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