Institutional investors pull US$469 billion from equities in 2016: Report

LONDON (REUTERS) - Institutional investors pulled US$468.8 billion (S$664.7 billion) out of equities in 2016, a report by the research firm eVestment showed on Tuesday, notwithstanding a rally late in the year that drove stock markets to record highs.

Investors piled into stocks after Donald Trump was elected as US President in early November, betting that his much-touted tax cuts and spending plans would stimulate growth.

Both US and world stocks have powered to record highs, with the S&P 500's market capitalisation climbing past US$20 trillion this month for the first time ever.

But in the fourth quarter of 2016, institutional investors continued to pull money from external asset managers, with equities suffering US$147.9 billion of net outflows, the latest data from eVestment showed.

The tide may be turning - international equity strategies are attracting the most searches in eVestment's database, a clue to future asset flows. But it takes time to implement investment decisions, so the trend will not be clear for several quarters, eVestment said.

The firm, which tracks more than US$37 trillion in institutional money globally, aggregates data from asset managers overseeing money for pension funds, insurers, sovereign wealth funds and foundations.

The fourth-quarter selling was broad-based, with client accounts domiciled in the United States, Europe, Britain, Canada, Africa, the Middle East and Australia all seeing redemptions.

Emerging market equities suffered heavy net redemptions of US$742.5 million in the fourth quarter, US equity strategies reported outflows of US$98.9 billion, and global stocks recorded outflows of US$26.5 billion, the data showed.

However, the selling was mainly from active equity strategies, which had net outflows of US$155.8 billion in the fourth quarter. Passive equity mandates attracted US$6.6 billion, eVestment said.

Fixed income had net outflows of US$4.9 billion, after attracting a revised US$126.2 billion of net inflows in the third quarter. Emerging markets fixed income reported net outflows of US$15.1 billion.

By client type, corporate accounts, public funds, insurance accounts, foundations and endowments and sovereign wealth funds were all net sellers in the fourth quarter. Defined contribution pension plans bucked the trend, attracting US$4.9 billion, bringing net inflows for 2016 to US$2.5 billion.