LONDON: A US$10 billion wipeout over the last week has compounded the worst start to a year for equity flows since 2008, Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists said on Friday.
Citing data from flow-tracker EPFR, BAML's analysts calculated that just over US$60 billion has now been yanked out of equities this year. Almost US$80 billion has been pulled from developed markets, while US$18.5 billion has gone into emerging markets.
They added that last week also saw the fourth-biggest inflow on record into 'investment grade' bonds at US$9.5 billion and that "Europe = Japan" - a reference to long-term aneamic growth and low interest rates - was now the most consensus trade in the world by their calculations.
"Europe = Japan is correct and consensus," they said, though they also reckon European assets will outperform in the second quarter now that the European Central Bank has shifted back towards stimulus and there are signs of renewed growth emerging from China.
For many, the monster outflows from stocks will appear at odds with what has been a red-hot start to the year for equity markets.
Despite a wobble this week, MSCI's main world share index has seen one of its best ever starts to a year thanks to surges of 20 percent or more for the likes of Wall Street's S&P 500 and China's main indexes.
The apparent disconnect could be explained by the fact that EPFR data captures only a portion of investment funds but also that firms themselves have been buying up their own shares this year after they became much cheaper last year.
Recent data from Biryinyi associates showed that U.S. companies had already announced plans to buy back nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars of their own stock by the end of February, which was up 7 percent on the same time a year ago.
BAML's analysts noted separately meanwhile that this weekend marks 10 years since the post-financial crisis global equity bull run started.
During that time the value, or market capitalization, of U.S. stocks has surged by US$21.3 trillion which is three times the US$6.5 trillion overall rise in annual economic output of the U.S. economy.
The top three performers in the Dow Jones index have been plane maker Boeing, iPhone giant Apple and Unitedhealth Group, while the worst performers have been Walgreen, oil firm Exxon, and IT firm IBM.
Annualized total return since the March 2009 low have been 17.5 percent for the S&P 500, versus 13.8 percent by Japan's Nikkei 225 and 9.3 percent for Europe's STOXX 600.
"Ten years after Global Financial Crisis, Eurozone trapped in deflationary "Japanification" of growth & interest rates; EU rates unlikely to rise, EU equities in 'value trap'" BAML's analysts said.
(Reporting by Marc Jones; editing by Helen Reid)