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Behavioral factors in mutual fund flows

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Using a sample of daily net flows to nearly 1,000 US. mutual funds over a year and a half period, the authors identify a set of systematic factors that explain a significant amount of the variation in flows. This suggests the existence of a common component to mutual fund investor behavior and indicates which asset classes may be regarded as economic substitutes by the participants in the market for mutual fund shares. The authors find that flows into equity funds -- both domestic and international -- are negatively correlated to flows to money market funds and precious metals funds. This suggests that investor rebalancing between cash and equity explains a significant amount of trade in mutual fund shares. The negative correlation of equities to metals suggests that this timing is not simply due to liquidity concerns, but rather to sentiment about the equity premium.

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