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BlackRock's Fink expects 'huge' rush into underinvested stock market

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. economy is speeding up again after a slowdown in recent months and cash could soon start rushing into stocks as most investors are underinvested in the markets globally, BlackRock Inc's Chief Executive Larry Fink said on Tuesday.

"What we are seeing worldwide are clients just struggling in putting their money to work," Fink told Reuters in an interview after his company reported first-quarter earnings.

"We still saw, as an industry and at BlackRock, outflows in equities and this is one of the reasons why I believe the market is getting set up for huge inflows into equities," he said.

U.S. stocks stumbled late last year due to fears about a global slowdown and about the potential fallout from U.S.-China trade tensions. A partial U.S. government shutdown and mixed economic data added to investor concerns earlier this year.

Yet, the benchmark S&P 500 stock index has gained more than 16 percent in 2019 due to monetary stimulus efforts in China and signs the U.S. Federal Reserve will delay further rate hikes for the time being. BlackRock's results showed that many investors have kept their money in lower-risk bonds.

BlackRock reported a better-than-expected first quarter profit on Tuesday but shed more than $26 billion (£20 billion) in client assets from stock funds during the first quarter. Still, those withdrawals were more than offset by a jump in bond fund sales to nearly $80 billion, from $3 billion the quarter prior.

"People are still under-risked despite the big rebound," Fink said.

The BlackRock chief executive said he thought the rebound would help his portfolio managers' performance, too.

The company reported on Tuesday that just 27% of the assets in its computer-assisted "systematic" stockpicking funds were beating their benchmark over a one-year period. That compares to 87% of those assets outperforming over five years. Fink said these funds' performance was improving in the current market climate.


(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Bernadette Baum)