U.S. fund investors look abroad as rate hike fears ease

August 18, 2016 6:11 PM EDT

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By Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. investors showed more confidence putting new money into international markets in the weekly period through Aug. 17, Lipper data showed on Thursday, pumping $2.7 billion into emerging-market stock funds.

The funds took in their seventh straight week of cash as minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's July policy meeting showed its leaders agree that more economic data is needed before raising interest rates.

Investment-grade bond funds took in $2.2 billion during the week, while high-yield junk bond funds gathered $889 million. Emerging market debt funds took in $478 million, the group's ninth straight week of inflows, the data showed.

"The money going in the market is betting at the moment that the Fed is not raising rates, definitely not in September and wait-and-see for December," said Pat Keon, research analyst for Thomson Reuters Lipper.

Higher U.S. rates could weaken emerging-market currencies relative to the dollar and hobble indebted markets abroad, while low rates encourage risk-taking.

Overall, U.S.-based taxable bond funds took in $4.2 billion during the week, according to Lipper, their second straight week of inflows.

The enthusiasm did not translate into a needed boost for U.S. stock funds, which have been punished with outflows for the better part of this year. For their part, U.S. stock mutual funds posted $4 billion of cash withdrawals in the latest reporting period, the category's 23rd straight week of outflows, according to Lipper.

Non-domestic stock funds took in $1.5 billion, but funds focused on U.S. shares recorded $1.2 billion in outflows during the week, the data showed.

Precious metals commodities funds, featuring a large exposure to gold, pointed to fears that a rate hike might happen. The funds posted $493 million in outflows, their largest withdrawals since December after two straight weeks of market losses.

Rising rates would raise the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets, such as gold.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Jonathan Oatis)

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