LONDON Investors piled back into bonds in the past week, directing the largest inflow into these funds for three months, although the pause in the bond market selloff will probably only be fleeting, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Friday.
The $6.3 billion inflow into bond funds in the week to Wednesday follows a torrid few months for bonds, which have sold off sharply as investors have bet on a pick-up in inflation and growth.
The week covered the New Year period, so many fund managers would have been on holiday. But those at their desks put money to work, with equity funds chalking up $5.5 billion inflows and emerging market debt funds their first inflow in nine weeks, of $1.9 billion.
"A wobble in risk assets would be no surprise in the coming weeks, with traders looking to play a pullback," wrote BAML's investment strategy team, led by Michael Hartnett in New York, in a note titled: "Bonds are Back".
U.S. stocks and banks are among the most vulnerable to profit-taking, they said.
Uncertainty and unease surrounding U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's inauguration, volatile trading in Chinese currency and money markets and a potential U.S. interest rate rise could all tempt investors to play safe in the coming weeks.
"(But) structurally, we remain bullish risk in the coming quarters," they wrote.
In the week to Wednesday, investors poured cash into high-yield bond funds for the sixth week in a row ($900 million) and a hefty $3.6 billion into investment-grade bond funds.
Gold funds saw an eighth consecutive weekly outflow, the longest losing streak in three years, while in equities Japanese funds posted the largest outflow in six weeks ($1.4 billion) but U.S. funds pulled in $2.6 billion, BAML said.
(This story has been corrected to remove reference to 2016 bond fund performance in 2nd paragraph)
(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Catherine Evans)