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Investors pull £236m from UK funds

Investors pull £236m from UK funds

Negativity towards UK assets continued in February for the fifth month running, with investors withdrawing £236m from funds focused on the home market during the month.

Data released this morning (April 4) by the Investment Association also showed the outflows were lower than those from European equity funds, with £453m withdrawn from those products.

Overall, investors withdrew a net amount of £156m from all funds in the Investment Association universe in February, with IA Global being the only bright spot, with inflows of £513m.

Investors also displayed wariness of the Targeted Absolute Return and Volatility Managed sector, which saw outflows of £357m.

US equity funds had outflows of £1m.

Laura Suter, analyst at AJ Bell, said the total outflows from UK equity funds since the Brexit referendum in June 2016 were £11.5bn.

Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management, predicted a looming correction for equities, saying it was time to reduce exposure.

He said: "A powerful rally across global stock markets since the start of the year has lifted equity valuations to levels at odds with our downbeat expectations for corporate profit growth. This has prompted us to cut equities to underweight and upgrade cash to overweight.

"Our expectation is that, worldwide, earnings could grow by as little as 1 - 2 per cent this year, significantly below the consensus view.

"The US stock market looks the most vulnerable to a correction; not only is it the most expensive in our scorecard, but profit margins among US companies look set to contract from record highs of 11 per cent, with many already reporting higher wage costs.

"Emerging market stocks remain our preferred equity investment, due to the developing world’s more resilient economic growth, low inflation and the prospect of a weaker US dollar."

US company earnings were boosted last year by corporate tax cuts, the effects of which Richard Buxton, fund manager at Merian Global Investors, called a "sugar rush" that boosted returns for a short period and will wear off.

John Stopford, who runs the £850m Investec Diversified Income fund, is also cautious on the outlook for equities, and said he is particularly wary of the US market, on valuation grounds.

david.thorpe@ft.com