Despite difficult market conditions, Americans continued to save more for retirement last year, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Assets held in individual retirement accounts and employer-sponsored defined contribution plans, including 401(k) plans, increased 11% from the previous year, the mutual fund trade group said in a report issued Tuesday.

That growth lifted total U.S. retirement assets to $17.6 trillion at yearend. Last year assets held in employer-sponsored retirement plans made up 64% of all U.S. retirement assets, the trade group said. Investors held $4.5 trillion in defined contribution plans, accounting for 40% of employer-sponsored plan assets.

That total included $3 trillion of assets held in 401(k) plans, a 10% increase from a year earlier.

Life cycle and lifestyle funds, which gradually become more conservative as the investor approaches a predetermined retirement date, continued their rapid growth last year, the report said. Assets in those funds reached $421 billion.

Net retirement account inflows into mutual funds increased 23% from a year earlier, to $184 billion. Long-term funds, which include equity, hybrid, and bond funds, garnered the bulk of the inflows, though retirement account flows to money market funds increased to $54 billion.

State Street Launches 10 International ETFs

State Street Global Advisors has launched 10 international sector exchange-traded funds, which began trading Tuesday on the American Stock Exchange. They are benchmarked to a series of Standard & Poor's international equity indexes.

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