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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Getty Contributor

After pouring record inflows into bond funds last year, investors are doing so at an even faster pace in 2020 — pushing 10 times more money into bonds than stocks.

By the numbers: More than $65 billion has flowed into bond funds this year, according to Lipper Refinitiv data provided to Axios, outpacing inflows through 2019's record pace when bond funds took in $316 billion.

Why it matters: As of Tuesday's close the S&P 500 had made 10 record highs in just six weeks this year and has risen and held above 3350, a level many investment managers targeted in their 2019 end-of-year outlooks.

  • The Nasdaq made its 12th record close Tuesday, but investors still don't seem to want equities, as stock funds have seen just $5.7 billion of inflows, year to date.

What's happening: Experts tell Axios that a confluence of issues are behind the bond-buying binge that has elevated purchases of investment-grade corporates and U.S. Treasuries over equities despite the stock market's strong performance.

  • Price-to-earnings ratios on U.S. stocks are at historically high levels, and traders continue to brace for a downturn, especially with worries growing over the novel coronavirus outbreak.
  • A growing number of baby boomers are switching their allocation to safer assets like fixed income as they near and enter retirement.
  • Foreign buyers — especially from Japan, which is the top overseas holder of U.S. government debt — have increased buys since a September decision allowing pension funds to buy U.S. and international debt.

Yes, but: When removing equity mutual funds, the allocation to stocks so far in 2020 is significantly higher. Investors have been moving out of higher-cost mutual funds and into low-fee (and even negative-fee) ETFs for years.

  • Equity ETFs have seen $38.5 billion of inflows this year.

Still, that number is only a bit more than half the bond fund inflow total, and bonds have seen a much higher volume of flows to funds excluding ETFs ($47.7 billion) than to ETFs ($17.9 billion).

The big picture: Thanks in no small part to the Fed holding interest rates at historically low levels and continuing its bond-buying program, investors have piled into debt over the past two years.

  • More than $382 billion has flowed into bonds since the start of 2019, Lipper's data show, while $191 billion has flowed out of equity funds.

Fun fact: Since 2010, more than three times as much money has flowed into bonds as into stocks — $1.5 trillion vs. $428 billion.

  • During that time, the value of stock funds held by investors has gone from $5.7 trillion to $14 trillion, while the value of bond fund holdings has gone from $2.7 trillion to $5.7 trillion, per Lipper. This is largely because equities have outperformed bonds by so much.

Go deeper: A historic fortnight of bond buying

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

2 hours ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

3 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.