Investor purchases of stock mutual funds have risen this month from March's brisk pace, many major fund companies said Thursday. But giant Fidelity Investments reported a decline in purchases of domestic funds.
Boosted by investments in individual retirement accounts by the April 15 tax deadline, many fund firms said investors' appetite for stock funds has been robust this month, continuing the huge buying wave that began in January.
T. Rowe Price Associates, for example, estimated that a net $1 billion in new money has flowed into its stock funds in April, up from $600 million in March. State Street Research said purchase activity in its funds is the highest in 2 1/2 years. At the Founders funds in Denver, "Money has just been rolling in," a spokesman said.
The anecdotal reports suggest that industrywide net inflows into stock funds in April will be above the $20.5 billion March inflow reported Thursday by the industry's chief trade group, the Investment Company Institute. The March figure was below January's record $28.9 billion and February's $21.9 billion, but still nearly three times the level of March 1995.
At Fidelity, whose image has been hurt by the weak performance of its flagship Magellan Fund this year, U.S. stock fund purchases have fallen this month to about $2 billion from $3 billion in March, the firm said. But foreign stock fund purchases have risen from $100 million to $300 million.
Wall Street is counting on industrywide purchases of stock funds to remain strong, thereby supporting the bull market. One shift reported by many fund companies: Investors are focusing on funds that buy smaller stocks, which could help prolong the powerful rally that has swept those issues over the last five weeks.
Meanwhile, the ICI said bond funds had a net inflow of $1.79 billion in March, down from $1.94 billion in February. Many fund firms say interest in bond funds remains minor, as most investors concentrate on the stock market.