After the stock market wiped away so many investors' wealth over the past two years, and amid disagreements among economists whether the recovery is sustainable, investors remain on sidelines—even though stocks are up 69% from their March 9, 2009 lows.
Some dismiss the debate over the recovery as expected chatter. “You have heard all the arguments,” Leuthold Group Analyst Doug Ramsey told The Chicago Tribune. “Denial and dismissal of strengthening economic reports is a traditional feature of the second phase of a bull market.”
None of this logic appears to matter to investors, however. The strong market gains of the past year still do not fix the fact many mutual funds are well below their pre-crash peak. “There’s still some sensitivity to how much was lost—investors are still opening their 401(k) statements and seeing losses,” Todd Rosenbluth, a mutual fund analyst at Standard & Poor’s, told The Wall Street Journal.
“I don’t know if we’re seeing the demise of actively managed mutual funds—if we are seeing a big change—but a lot of people seem to have decided to stay away from stock funds,” added Tom Roseen, a senior analyst with Lipper.
It appears that some investors feel let down by the confines of mutual funds, which may be why so many exchange-traded funds have been hitting the market, and flows have followed, Roseen continued. “A lot of people want to be able to get in and out of the market quickly, and ETFs are more nimble.”
Between early March 2090 and Jan. 31, bond funds netted a whopping $328 billion, and stock funds a mere $21.22 billion in inflows.