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U.S. taxable-bond funds reel in cash for 17th straight week -ICI

By Trevor Hunnicutt NEW YORK, April 5 (Reuters) - Investors amped up their bets on the fixed-income market during the latest week, adding cash to U.S.-based taxable-bond funds for the 17th straight week, Investment Company Institute data showed on Wednesday.

The move into U.S.-based bond funds, which has lasted more than a year, comes despite a risk of rising U.S. interest rates and as the Federal Reserve incubates a plan to cut its cache of bond holdings this year.

Fixed-income funds attracted $7.6 billion during the seven days through March 29, the trade group said, including $7 billion in taxable-bond funds and the remainder in municipal debt.

Minutes from the latest meeting of the Fed's policymaking committee released on Wednesday showed its members think the U.S. central bank should take steps to begin trimming its $4.5 trillion balance sheet this year as long as the U.S. economy holds up.

Bond funds have nonetheless remained immensely popular.

They took in $261 billion in the United States over the 14 months through February, earlier ICI data showed. Equity funds posted nearly $19 billion in withdrawals over that period.

By contrast, bond markets reacted violently in 2013 to the possibility that the Fed might slow down its bond buying. Bond mutual funds posted $71 billion in withdrawals during the "taper tantrum" that year.

In March, U.S. ETF investors sopped up investment-grade bonds, emerging markets sovereign debt and Treasuries, according to data service FactSet Research Systems Inc, while mortgage-backed securities also attracted cash.

Those moves could be a bet on stable rates, said Rusty Vanneman, chief investment officer at CLS Investments LLC, but he said the more obvious reason is investors are "just reaching for more yield." That behavior did not extend to stocks, which attracted just $1.7 billion during the week, ICI said, a reversal from withdrawals during the prior week.

Investors added $1.3 billion into funds focused on international shares, their 17th straight week adding cash, while $339 million went to equity funds focused on domestic companies.

The following table shows estimated ICI flows, including mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (all figures in millions of dollars): 3/29 3/22 3/15 3/8 3/1/2017 Equity 1,659 -1,752 10,992 9,112 9,116 -Domestic 339 -6,849 9,014 4,284 5,766 -World 1,320 5,097 1,978 4,828 3,350 Hybrid -1,066 -778 -242 -376 -912 Bond 7,626 13,190 2,834 6,921 9,707 -Taxable 6,985 12,511 3,037 6,868 9,432 -Municipal 641 679 -203 53 274 Commodity 100 -151 237 -663 192 Total 8,319 10,508 13,821 14,994 18,103 (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by James Dalgleish)