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Investors pile into cash at fastest rate since COVID crisis

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Investors put money into cash at the fastest pace at the start of a quarter since the 2020 COVID crisis in the week to Wednesday, as heightened volatility and questions over the US rate outlook triggered a safe-haven dash, BofA Global Research said on Friday.

Cash funds saw inflows of $62.1 billion in the latest week, reflecting investor demand for dollars, which in turn saw the 19th straight week of outflows from gold funds – the longest string of outflows since 2014, BofA said in its weekly “Flow Show” report, citing data from EPFR.

Equity funds posted $6.3 billion in inflows, with emerging markets funds recording their second straight weekly inflow, with $4.3 billion, and European equity funds posting their 38th weekly outflow, down $900 million, BofA added.

Stocks got a boost last week from a belief among investors that the Federal Reserve could shift the pace of rate hikes down a gear, as the economy shows signs of slowing.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has since poured cold water over such speculation, given stubbornly high inflation and a resilient labour market.

“Easy to pivot when unemployment is 8 per cent and inflation is 3 per cent. Much harder to pivot when inflation is 8 per cent & unemployment is 3 per cent,” BofA investment strategist Michael Hartnett wrote.

The S&P 500 (.SPX) gained almost 4 per cent last week, buoyed by optimism over quarterly earnings and the prospect of slower rate hikes from the Fed.

And yet the bank’s “Bull & Bear indicator” stayed at 0 for a seventh week, marking its longest period of “max bearish” since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

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