Investors may be fleeing from mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks for the long haul. But that does not mean they’re fleeing U.S. stock funds.

In fact, capital is flowing into funds that trade in U.S. stocks throughout the day – exchange-traded funds.

In the past five weeks, $20.4 billion got pulled out of mutual funds that invest long-term in U.S. stocks, according to Investment Company Institute figures. That includes $3.4 billion that got pulled out in the last week of reporting, which ended Nov. 2.

The five weeks essentially capture results for October 2011.

By comparison, triple that amount actually went into funds that invest in domestic stocks. Only that $61.8 billion poured into exchange-traded funds that invest in domestic stocks, according to statistics compiled by the National Stock Exchange.

These find favor among investors because the shares in the funds can be bought or sold at any time, just like shares in a single company.

Shares in mutual funds only get valued, bought and sold in between trading sessions, overnight.

In fact, beginning at roughly the time – the start of August -- that Standard & Poor’s downgraded U.S. debt and set off a new round of market volatility, investors have pulled $61.0 billion out of mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks.

But the money is not necessarily coming out of funds that hold shares in U.S. stocks. Instead, ETFs are becoming the new destination.

In the 12 months ending Nov. 2, $124.3 billion has been pulled out of mutual funds that invest long-term in domestic stocks, according to ICI historical data.

But about two-thirds of that, statistically, has moved over to ETFs. In the past year, $80.5 billion has been added to ETFs that invest in U.S. stocks.

Of which, $61.8 billion flooded in during the last month to ETFs to exchange-traded funds that put investor capital into domestic stocks. But, in this case, investors can move into or out of a holding at an instant’s notice.

The European debt crisis may not have been the propellant. More than $30 billion still went into global equity funds during the month, according to NSX data.

The mutual fund results jibe with Morningstar figures as well. According to that research firm, investors redeemed $18.2 billion from mutual funds that invest in U.S. stocks in October. That was “the greatest monthly outflow for the asset class since $22.7 billion in July,’’ it said.

Overall, U.S.-stock outflows reached $53.5 billion for the year to date, by its count.

-- This article first appeared on Securities Technology Monitor.