Hedge funds snapped their seven-week selling streak last week, contributing to the S&P 500’s 1.6% gain. Meanwhile, institutional investors and private investors continued to sell, more than offsetting the inflows pumped into stocks by hedge funds, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Hedge funds flip-flop on U.S. stocks
Strategists Jill Carey Hall and Savita Subramanian said in their April 19 “Equity Client Flow Trends” report that their firm’s client were net sellers of U.S. stocks for the twelfth consecutive week to the tune of $1.36 billion.
Most of the sales came in large-cap stocks, although they observed sales in all three size stocks.
They noted that the selling pace slowed down for the second consecutive week, although they continue to believe that their firm’s clients doubt the recent market rally.
Institutional clients were still the biggest sellers of U.S. stocks last week, although private clients have been net sellers for the last ten weeks, giving them the longest sales streak. After seven straight weeks of all three major client groups being net sellers of U.S. stocks, the BAML team noted that hedge funds became net buyers, marking the first time they were buyers in nine weeks.
Further, they saw record net selling of U.S. stocks by hedge funds in the first quarter.
Biggest outflows in cyclicals
The BAML team said their firm’s clients sold single stocks in all ten sectors with Consumer Discretionary and Financials seeing the biggest outflows while Utilities, Health Care, Staples and Telecom—all defensive sectors—saw the smallest outflows, Hall and Subramanian said.
They also reported that the buying which went on last week was “entirely passive” because exchange-traded funds were the only ones that saw inflows. Institutional clients, hedge funds and private clients all were net buyers of ETFs last week.
Health Care continues to be one of the least favorite sectors right now as investors unwind their positions and uncertainty swirls because of attacks by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The BAML team said the sector has witnessed net selling for the last seven consecutive weeks—keeping in the top position for the longest sales streak. Technology has witnessed the largest outflows so far this year, although BAML said the sales have leveled off since early last month and been “relatively muted most weeks since then.”
Institutional investors, hedge funds and private clients all were net sellers of Energy, Health Care and Consumer Discretionary.
Pension funds became net buyers of U.S. stocks last week after a week of selling, with most of the buying coming in ETFs, although Industrials also racked up some sales among pension funds. Year to date, BAML said pension funds are still net buyers.