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SWFs pull $16.2 bln from external managers in Q2 as selling accelerates

By Claire Milhench

LONDON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Sovereign wealth funds pulled $16.2 billion from third-party asset managers in the second quarter according to the latest data from research firm eVestment, up from a revised $10.1 billion in the first quarter.

The outflows were the second largest in five years, exceeded only by the $22 billion withdrawn by sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in the third quarter of 2015, when oil prices tumbled around 25 percent.

Peter Laurelli, global head of research at eVestment, which collates data from 4,400 firms managing money on behalf of institutional investors, said SWF flows to external money managers appeared "highly correlated" to global commodity prices, particularly oil prices.

"Continued redemptions could be a sign SWFs expect continued pressure on commodity prices in coming quarters," he said.

The second-quarter data also revealed the highest proportion of external managers reporting SWF net outflows, at 72 percent, compared with just 28 percent reporting net inflows.

The depth of the sell-off reflects the fact that countries such as Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are heavily reliant on oil exports to generate income, have raided their rainy day funds to close budget gaps.

The eVestment data showed that over $7 billion was withdrawn from U.S. equities mandates, with passive S&P 500 equity funds bearing the brunt of the selling. In total, equity funds lost $8.6 billion.

This selling occurred despite strong gains in global stocks with the S&P 500 up 7 percent this year to record highs, while the benchmark world equity index is up 4 percent.

Overall, fixed income funds lost $7.5 billion, with some $3.2 billion pulled from U.S. mandates and $2.7 billion from global strategies.

Laurelli highlighted the move away from inflation-sensitive bond products with accelerating redemptions from U.S. and global products, which lost $1.5 billion and almost $3 billion respectively.

"This could be a sign there is lack of faith from the SWF community of the effectiveness of global central bank monetary policy to stimulate inflation, or for continued concentrated efforts to do so," he said.

Even emerging market debt funds, which have attracted other investors in recent weeks because of their higher yields, suffered SWF redemptions of just under $1.6 billion.

Asia Pacific equity was one of the few areas to see modest inflows, attracting $748 million. This was mainly driven by net inflows of $757 million into Malaysia equity funds. Overall EM equity mandates lost just over $1 billion.

"It is apparent that SWFs continue to allocate to external managers for niche strategies," Laurelli said, noting three consecutive quarters of growing allocations to Malaysian equity and consistent allocations to EM infrastructure.

(Reporting by Claire Milhench Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)