UK Markets closed

Make-or-Break Trade Week Sours $3 Billion Bet on U.S. Stocks

Sarah Ponczek

(Bloomberg) -- Three straight weeks of losses in U.S. stocks were enough to scare off exchange-traded fund investors ahead of trade talks with China.

The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, ticker VOO, saw $2.9 billion worth of outflows at the start of the week, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That was the biggest withdrawal of 2019, and the second-largest in the fund’s 9-year lifespan.

With an envoy traveling from China to the U.S. for high-level negotiations, a raft of Fedspeak alongside the release of the central bank’s meeting minutes and inflation data, markets face a string of potential catalysts. The S&P 500 Index has fallen for three straight weeks, yet remains less than 4% away from its record. Nerves are running high.

“Frankly, we could see another event like Q4 (when stocks slumped the most since 2011) very easily,” said Randy Frederick, a vice president of trading and derivatives who helps oversee $3.7 trillion in assets at Charles Schwab. “I don’t anticipate it, but another breakdown in discussions with China, ‘OK talks are off the table, we’re done for now,’ or whatever, we could easily see that again.”

Read: China Open to Small Trade Deal If Trump Eases Tariff Threats

Such large outflows from VOO are notable because massive redemptions aren’t common. Unlike the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, which is used heavily by traders, Vanguard’s $115 billion fund is utilized more by long-term investors.

“Outflows from VOO are as rare as a four-leaf clover since it is a preferred fund of long-term sticky money,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Eric Balchunas. “When it does happen it’s more likely connected to a rebalance of some sort by a large advisor or model portfolio.”

(Adds link to report on U.S.-China talks.)

--With assistance from Vildana Hajric.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Ponczek in New York at sponczek2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeremy Herron at jherron8@bloomberg.net, Rita Nazareth, Rachel Evans

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.