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U.S. mutual fund investors pull money from stocks for 8th straight week -ICI

(Adds investor quote, paragraphs 5, 6) By Trevor Hunnicutt NEW YORK, May 11 (Reuters) - U.S. mutual fund investors sold stocks and piled into bonds for the eighth straight week, Investment Company Institute (ICI) data showed on Wednesday, indicating some investors still doubt the economy's stamina after a shaky first quarter.

Investors withdrew $3 billion from U.S.-based stock funds, adding to a streak that has swept nearly $35 billion from the funds, according to ICI data.

"Retail investors are definitely jittery," said Morningstar Inc analyst Jason Kephart. "Stocks haven't really gone anywhere in the last year and investors are probably still feeling the aftershocks of a pretty volatile first quarter." If anything, the negative sentiment around stock funds is understated by the current pattern of withdrawals. Over the last year, the funds have recorded outflows in 39 of 52 weeks, ICI data showed.

The heavy outflows may portend a longer run for U.S. stocks, even with the benchmark S&P 500 up 14.5 percent from a February low.

"I have never seen an environment where investors are so scared of public equities for such an extended period of time," said Richard Bernstein, chief executive of Richard Bernstein Advisors LLC. "This is the kind of environment you want to invest in. When everyone is scared, you want to be the provider of scarce capital." Investors pulled $2.4 billion from U.S.-based funds focused on domestic companies and another $649 million from international stock funds, according to data for the week ended May 4.

Including exchange-traded funds, the outflows from U.S.-based equity funds totaled $13 billion, ICI said.

During the prior week, U.S.-based stock mutual funds posted $8.1 billion in outflows, according to a recently revised figure, still the biggest withdrawal this year. Fund investors are unimpressed with growth prospects following tepid first-quarter corporate earnings and economic data.

Bond funds, meanwhile, have pulled in $46 billion over the last 10 weeks. The funds reeled in $3.5 billion in the latest week, according to ICI, a fund trade group.

U.S. municipal bond funds attracted $1.5 billion and taxable government bond funds gathered $592 million, ICI said, extending a streak of popularity for the funds in 2016.

U.S.-based funds invested in international bonds took in $2.5 billion, the most since April 2015.

"Investors that want to take some risk off the table are finding solace in fixed income," said Kephart.

The following table shows estimated ICI flows for the past five weeks (all figures in millions of dollars): 5/4 4/27 4/20 4/13 4/6/2016 Total equity -3,008 -8,122 -3,931 -4,632 -5,836 -Domestic -2,359 -5,681 -3,145 -4,327 -5,281 -World -649 -2,441 -785 -306 -555 Hybrid -308 172 196 -142 373 Total bond 3,536 8,231 4,250 2,793 6,663 -Taxable 2,033 6,360 3,248 1,883 5,204 -Municipal 1,503 1,871 1,003 910 1,460 Total 220 281 516 -1,982 1,200 (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and David Gregorio)