Assets in equity mutual funds climbed higher in April as net flows totaled $18 billion, $3.5 billion greater than in March, on the strength of new money heading into international funds, according to a report released on Monday by fund tracking firm Lipper.

Domestic stock funds posted $2.2 billion in inflows, shrinking from $2.5 billion in the previous month. World funds, however, were a hot commodity as investors poured $11.3 billion into overseas markets, up from the $7 billion they garnered in March.

Mixed-equity funds didn't fare as well taking in only $4.5 billion, down from $5 billion last month. On the fixed-income side, bond funds hugged the flat line with a modest outflow of $0.1 billion, an improvement on March's $3.5 billion in outflows.

Meanwhile, money market funds bled $33.2 billion in April although that was a $13 billion improvement from last April and a $20 billion improvement from April 2003.

"We think slowing growth in retail sales and investors wanting to earn more than money market rates helped drive total equity fund flows up for the month of April," said Andrew Clark, senior research analyst at Lipper.

"The trend of outflows has continued to improve since the September 2003 bottom. And, according to our trend cycle calculations, we are in the fifth straight month of a rising trend, Clark said.

"Our sense is that outflows from money market funds will continue to shrink in the same sort of grinding manner we've seen for more than 18 months. What that may bode for equity funds remains to be seen, though rising liquidity in the long run is as almost surely a positive for equity fund flows.

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