BNY Asks "If Retail Investors Are Leaving US Stocks In Mutual Funds And ETFs, Then Who Is Buying Stocks?"

Tyler Durden's picture

One of Zero Hedge's favorite indications of rationality (in addition to following what credit does, without fail to the chagrin of permabullish equity fanatics) in the face of Fed-induced capital markets psychopathology, is following the flow of funds into various asset categories. Last week we pointed out that ICI reported the 13th sequential outflow from domestic equity mutual funds, validating our persistent skepticism that the money pushing stocks higher on margin is certainly not coming courtesy of retail accounts, which represent the bulk of holders behind the $10 trillion market cap of US stocks. Incidentally the retail redemptions are also occurring at the ETF level, and in total now amount to $32 billion for mutual funds, and $6 billion for ETFs. The paradox of a rising stock market in the face of massive redemptions has forced others, namely BNY ConvergEx' Nicolas Colas to ask the same question: "If retail investors are leaving U.S. stocks in both 401(k)s (read mutual funds) and brokerage IRAs/investment accounts (read ETFs), then who is buying stocks so that the market is still up (modestly) on the year?" His observation is simple: "Investors are shifting assets in both mutual funds and ETFs away from U.S. stocks and into fixed income. The moves are dramatic: there is 2-4x more money moving into fixed income than is leaving stocks. Fresh savings, in other words, are going directly into bonds. There is also some modest shift to international investing, mostly in equities, but not on the same order of magnitude as the bond trade." In this environment, we believe that in addition to the recently floated idea of annuitizing 401(k), a new revision to retirement planning will be made to allocated even more capital to the equity portion of 401(k) plans, now that the Fed is about to imminently get back to monetizing treasuries thereby making the question of just who buys Treasurys on margin moot.

Full presentation from Nicolas Colas.


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DoctoRx's picture

Gold is king for now.  Stocks are a sideshow.  That will change.  But not yet.  Bonds are speculative instruments in different ways from stocks.  The public will of course be wrong on bonds but it may be too early for that to occur given the massive overweighting the public continues to have on stocks re bonds.  And I still know almost no one who owns signficant amounts of Au.

Janice's picture

I asked my neighbor what he though about gold as money.  He said,"Isn't the dollar backed with gold?"  I told him, not since 1971.  I know virtually no one with gold.  I don't think they have the money...they are paying off debt.  If they do have money to purchase gold, they usually purchase a big screen tv instead.  Like the penguins on Madagascar, I just .... smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.

Eric Cartman's picture

I enjoy watching my big screen tv more than sitting and watching my gold bar.

Perseus son of Zeus's picture

I truly feel sorry for you blokes trading the US markets.

Eric Cartman's picture

Why? I've got stops as tight as your womans pussy. I just ride the liquidity train up and up. So rather than sit on cash I make a little more to sit on down the road. Again, tight stops like your womans pussy will ensure I'm profitable. Options also work too. 

reave the sheeple's picture

Picking up loose change on a busy freeway.  Don't cry when your stops don't work as advertised...

Goldenballs's picture

Try buying Au soon,you won,t be able to.Like insurance can,t buy it when you need it.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

BNY Asks "If Retail Investors Are Leaving US Stocks In Mutual Funds And ETFs, Then Who Is Buying Stocks?"

Just a wild ass guess but maybe it's Big Brother who's buying stocks to pump the market and create the illusion that all must be well since stocks (meaning 401(k)s and personal investment accounts, including variable annuities) are way up from the bottom, thus keeping popular resentment and anger within the Ponzi supporting middle to upper middle class suppressed and below boiling towards the bankster bailouts and obscene pay packages?

After all, if the supporting cast of government, military industrial complex and health care workers can be led to believe that the financial cream floating to the top is being shared to some extent ("Well I hate what's going on but at least I'm getting a piece of the pie") a few more months or years can be gained for the final fleecing before the entire stinking mess comes crashing down.

But that's just a wild ass guess on my part.

seventree's picture

 it's Big Brother who's buying stocks to pump the market

That would also answer the underlying question, Who would buy stocks today and expect to ever see their money again? The question becomes moot of course if it is not their money but ours (or more accurately, freshly imagined money).

pitz's picture

That was the prevailing school of thought prior to the hyperinflation in Weimar Germany.  Yet when all the dust had settled, only the large-cap, non-financial equity owners were able to preserve any value.

So diss the ownership of non-financial stocks at your peril. 

maddy10's picture


But all common stock went poof.

Pity we can't buy Preferential stocks and shares like Buffet


pitz's picture

Not all common stock.  Just the common stock of financial entities, and some junior industrials. 

House prices also went to something near zero. 

Germans who retained ownership of these productive enterprises, through common shareownership, strongly supported and financed Hitler, and his attacks on what was believed to be a "Jew-controlled" financial system.

maddy10's picture

I am not sure about that

Just quoting wikipedia

Says that the 'Golden era' make believe that happened after weimar collapse was funded by american financial houses and for allowing loans from american banks Germany got a place in League of nations in 1926

And Hitler's party became popular after the crash of 1929 that crashed all German interests again- That instigated the anti jew sentiment[minority though] coz the Jewish interests in Germany kept all the preferential shares that were still honoured by American "Jewish" Banks but common stocks were not.That enraged the german nationalists.

can't claim reference on Wiki , I know

MrSteve's picture

My history reading shows only PM and agricultural holding owners in Weimar Germany maintained value through the hyper inflation. The industrialists went BK due to "supply chain" failures when no one would deliver against worthless payment purchase orders. Certainly we see non-financial ever-increasingly scarce domestic manufacturers going BK left and right in our own economy now. Meanwhile, farmland values and gold remain high. And in a rare display of modesty and doubt for WWW. postings, Am I wrong?


Bendromeda Strain's picture

I would be interested to see the rate of flow before and after the flash crash. In my fevered mind I hear a conversation that goes something like...

"The plan was working, equities were starting to organically turn around, and then you go and SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYONE?!?"

"We had to. While you were grandstanding FinReg, there were Senators who had the idea that they could use it to actually bludgeon us. They had to be reminded."

"Yes, but now the index means NOTHING. They are leaving in droves even when we turn around the worst of days."

"Eggs, omelette - you know the drill."

LeBalance's picture

lol, since that was Greenspasm's quote from last week (or regardless of where the money "seems" to have come from) it originates with the Master's orders.  My comment, just lower, was written in synchrony to yours, and asks a similar question: "Can one assess the percentage (a lower bound) of how much of the US market the Fed now owns?"


impending doom's picture

Man, I'm neck-deep in pie and I am sickened by what's going on. We're in extra-time right now, but the game has to end at some point. I want SO badly to build a better world, and yet I'm long lead-delivery devices and spam...

digalert's picture

What a conundrum. Obama, CONgress and the FED have made personal capitol gains evil and punishable by forfeiture.

LeBalance's picture

Editorial License!

(from the above article with [an addition])....the money pushing stocks higher on margin is certainly not coming courtesy of retail accounts, which [used to] represent the bulk of holders behind the $10 trillion market cap of US stocks.

Would some kind soul venture to say that QE 2 has already passed us by and it was used to purchase the US market?  So, hmmm, what percent of the US market was covertly purchased under the bygone QE 2?  Further programs after QE 2 did continue to purchase the US market as investor funds fled, so all-in-all with the US market at its present cap can we regressively determine a lower bound (just using the total of fled funds capital) of what percentage is FED owned and how big the past QEs purchasing the US market were in total?

Just musing.

/sarcasm on/  Deflation my !!! /sarcasm off/

Mitchman's picture

He didn't answer the question on everyone's lips. 

equity_momo's picture

Remember what Greenspan said in his Meet The Press interview the other week.

So yeah , anyone who still doesnt believe in the PPT or whatever you want to call it , well , you're the sort of person who will zap someone with 6k volts if a guy in white overalls with a clipboard tells you to.

Quinvarius's picture

Yep.  Greenspan blabbering on about how important it was to make stocks go up was a pretty clear indication of the insanity and focus at the Fed.  They simply have no clue that a free trading market is more important than higher stock prices.  If everyone knows they are investing with Madoff, they want out just as bad as they want out when the market is actually tanking.  I always gave Greenspan the benefit of the doubt.  But recently, I have realized he has been cut from the same cloth as Madoff, Ponzi, and all the other con men walking the planet.  He doesn't give a crap about stucture, fairness or fraud.  He only cares about creating a perception that will enrich himself and his friends.

The joke is on the Fed.  Every dollar they print and flush to perform this pump through futures, options on futures, or direct purchases is a real dollar that stays in the system.  The DOW may get to 90,000.  But the dollar Index will go to 5.

mark mchugh's picture

Yeah, Greenie is now advocating irrational exuberance.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

well , you're the sort of person who will zap someone with 6k volts if a guy in white overalls with a clipboard tells you to.

Which, if you remember that landmark study correctly, "person" is the vast majority of "us". People will commit all sorts of personal violations and atrocities upon their fellow man when told to do so, or given permission to do so, from the "authorities".

What's truly amazing is that the "authorities" can often be as simple as a man in a white lab coat and a clip board or some bureaucrat with an official sounding title. I gotta remember that during the upcoming (war crimes) trials. "He said I was authorized to (fill in the blank with your favorite atrocity)".

Bah bah black sheep.

Jackfish's picture


Why bother with the Stanford study?

Both the BBC in 2002,

and French Television in 2010

recreated the experiments with stronger results....


The vast majority of sheep will do whatever authority demands of them.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I wasn't aware. Thanks for the links. I have saved them and will read them carefully.

impending doom's picture

And we thought recruiting SS officers would be hard...

impending doom's picture

BTW, the OP was referring to Milgram's electroshock study, not Zimbardo's prison experiment. Before IRB's you could have some real fun w/o thinking of the expense of your subjects, er, participants...

Mr pain's picture

If you want to see how real manipulation can be, watch this.

This is a real show where Derren Brown took a bunch of middle managers, told them they were undergoing empowerment training but what he was really doing was conditioning them to rob an armored car.  Three of the four actually do it.   It is five parts but it is worth it.   

Eric Cartman's picture

Fuck Butters, I would have done it and I would have got you to help me.

Dr o love's picture

Heard Zimbardo talk last December.  Interestlingly, in Milgram's studies, women were almost certain to go to the highest level of shock.  Not that women are more violent, but they are more compliant per the Milgram studies.  Zimbardo showed that you don't even need the command of "authority" to induce willingness to commit violence.  Nothing has changed since these studies were conducted (these things happen all the time in Iraq and Afghanistan; see recent "wiki leaks").

Iceobar's picture

.... a couple of quotes from Greenspan's paper in 1966...

"Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy's tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government's promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government bonds which — through a complex series of steps — the banks accept in place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit, i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets. The law of supply and demand is not to be conned. As the supply of money (of claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the economy's books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by bank credit expansion."

"In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves."


Mitchman's picture

Excellent post.  Thank you.  Would that he would have practiced what he preached!

MrSteve's picture

Stanley Milgram's obedience study is the shocking source study.

Lux Fiat's picture

Could dark pools be used to manipulate the market?  Don't know enough about how they operate and reporting requirements to surmise with any degree of accuracy, but if you are trying to cover your tracks, might be a good hiding place.  Do dark pool transaction prices show up (delayed or otherwise) in the real market, and affect bid/ask prices, similar to quotes on one exchange having potential spillover onto others?

Eternal Student's picture

They apparently can. Just look at the comments of Traders on the floor during October of 2008. Things like "I've never seen anything like this" and "something's going on". Basically large blocks of stock were being liquidated in order to meet margin calls, apparently. I say "apparently" as this was all not transparent.

So, yes, when margin calls are made, all assets go up for sale. This includes gold, btw, as you may have noticed in its price back then.

Now, consider that not only has the system not been fixed since then, but it has also gotten worse.

Jason T's picture

"The financial System is Broken"


HitTheFan's picture

My small addition to the current situation.....

It's copper charts. Great leading indicator. it has had a double-top very recently, look at the 30/60 day chart, and it is a lower top than at the end of Dec 2009, setting up for a large head & shoulders pattern. I'll be watching this chart every day, if it keeps heading down, so will everything else risk related.

Good luck to us all. And to the world.

Implicit simplicit's picture

Nice charts!. Dr. Copper, the leading indicator, looks to turn down, but there could be head fake first.

Supplies still look depleted from the charts. It is my understanding that China is the largest consumer of copper now, and they are still consuming agressively.

I think your right in the mid to long term (world slowdown), and I hope your right in the short term, but I'm not so sure.(China)

oklaboy's picture

nice link, and thanks. Looks like sumbunny is using coper in China, cause there ain't no use here.

putbuyer's picture

Whats a good way to play the TZA, TNA pair now that we are building the right shoulder?

RockyRacoon's picture

You are kidding, right?  If you have to ask you don't need to be doing it.

MrSteve's picture

Please help this brother in financial arms! Please. He is asking for your help if you have it to give, as will all others who come to his level of awareness, now and tomorrow. It's a good thing to do. internet search means your mentoring will grow and grow with search engine replication. That's real info-leveraging!!


doolittlegeorge's picture

while the poor people sleeping with the shade on their light, while the poor people sleepin' all the stars come out at night.

while the poor people sleeping with the shade on their light, while the poor people sleepin all the stars come out at night.

pitz's picture

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire?

A solid base of equity is required before any business will take on debt for expansion, hiring, etc.  Americans, by switching their portfolios largely to fixed income, may be in fact, seeding the demise of their economy by doing so, and missing out on great returns going forward.

At current stock market valuations, there is no reason whatsoever to issue dilutive equity.  There is no reason whatsoever to do anything but pay dividends or repurchase shares.  Over time, this will unleash strong inflation, as depleted capital is not replaced, but is rather, liquidated.

Such inflation will continue until government stops sucking up the pools of excess capital (through borrowing, deficits), and allows such excess capital to be re-allocated back to rebuild depleted industry.

Oswald Spengler's picture

John Q. Public is afraid of the market and won't venture back in for years to come, much to the chagrin of Wall St who hoped to offload shares to the retail buyer. The HFTs will keep passing the shares of the same 20 companies back and forth until the music stops and they all go running for thier chairs, I mean the exits. The PPT is also at work trying to keep the con game going. Meanwhile, Comrade Obama will keep increasing the size of government.

depression's picture

The trend in the US Dollar is drawing some mild flow of capital from foreign currencies. Once the US Dollar breaks key support levels and confidence in the reserve currency collapses this flow of foreign holdings will reverse course and move out of US financial assets in a hurry. The currency trade will devolve into panic and the system will freeze up completely. The average US citizen is not prepared for what is coming next.

ratava's picture

are there any more stocks to buy? i thought pds backed by govt bought them all in the name of national security and what we see now is just a churn of the small fraction that remains available.