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Dec 17, 2018

Investors flee biggest financials ETF at fastest pace since 2008

Economist Maki Says Fed Can Raise Rates and Unwind Balance Sheet

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With fears about future economic growth roiling markets, financial firms are falling out of vogue with ETF investors at a pace unseen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The US$24 billion Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund, ticker XLF, had US$1.8 billion of outflows last week, the most since July 2008. The US$24 billion fund has seen investors pull US$4.6 billion this year, fourth most among non-leveraged U.S. equity exchange-traded funds. Its price has fallen more than 10 per cent in December alone.

Concern the economy will buckle under tighter monetary policy and the gradual decline in the quality of lending and has pushed financial stocks into a bear market, accelerating the exodus from the sector. Meanwhile, pessimists are piling in, with the fund’s short interest rising last week to 3.5 per cent of shares outstanding, the most in 15 months.

The S&P 500 Financials Sector Index fell as much as 0.9 per cent Monday before regaining much of the slide. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. was among the leading decliners, dropping for a ninth consecutive session as Malaysia filed the first criminal charges against the Wall Street giant in relation to the 1MDB scandal.