(Bloomberg) — Exchange-traded fund investors took Wednesday’s stock-market surge as an opportunity to offload $8 billion of holdings in two of the biggest equity funds.
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Investors pulled $5.8 billion from the $380 billion SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (ticker SPY), marking the largest withdrawal since September. Meanwhile, the $162 billion Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1 (QQQ) saw an outflow of $2.1 billion, the biggest since July.
The withdrawals came just as the benchmarks the funds follow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100, rallied to 11-week highs on optimism that the Federal Reserve will pivot on interest rates. Sellers took advantage of the market’s recent show of strength as a string of jumbo rate hikes had been tamping down the stock market this year.
“Investors took advantage of the sharp rally in US equities and took short-term profits on large-cap strategies,” said Todd Rosenbluth, head of research at ETF data provider and research consultant VettaFi. “While 2022 has been a tough year, markets have bounced back in the fourth quarter on expectations the Fed would pivot. Investors often sell when there is greater confirmation of the market consensus.”
Combined outflows from the two mega funds total more than $11 billion so far this week, the most since February of 2020.
Among other closely watched equity funds, the $102-billion Vanguard Value ETF (VTV) saw a roughly $1.9 billion withdrawal Wednesday, capping November as its worst month ever for outflows, with more than $6 billion yanked.
Wednesday’s stock surge followed Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signaling a likely slowdown in the pace of fiscal tightening could come as early as December.
The central bank is trying to get rampant inflation under control and has been vocal about its need to continue to raise interest rates to achieve its objectives. Officials have signaled they plan to raise their benchmark rate by 50 basis points at their final meeting of the year on Dec. 13-14.
It’s possible that some investors reallocated from the big stock funds elsewhere, says Mohit Bajaj, director of ETFs at WallachBeth Capital. The flows could yet show up in other products since investors tend to use both SPY and QQQ as places to park their money temporarily.
But it’s also feasible that “a few people might be waiting until the next Fed announcement before making any other year-end moves,” he said.
–With assistance from Isabelle Lee.
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