------Reprinted from May 14, 2007
There are about 8,000 mutual funds in the United States and 55,000 worldwide. Of those in the US, 4,600 were stock mutual funds. 55% of the money invested in mutual funds is invested in Stock Mutual funds (5 Trillion dollars). 48% of all of the Mutual Funds are in tax deferred accounts. Mutual funds owned 23% of all US publicly traded stocks for the year ending 2005. There is more info on this at
If the stock market turned bearish and started to drop drastically, your mutual fund portfolio would drop in value. At this point you have three choices; withdraw your funds, switch to a non stock portfolio with the fund, or do nothing. With withdrawal, you could face an early withdrawal penalty of 5% or as with the tax deferred accounts, an IRA penalty on top of that.
Notice that 52% of the investors have the option to withdraw without tax penalties. The rest probably have the option to switch from stock to money market funds. Here’s where things start to become unglued. The mutual stock fund facing redemptions has to sell stock for redemptions, and also for the transfers being made to money market funds.
The stock fund manager is sitting in his office wanting to buy the market, everything is at a discount. What’s he being ordered to do? Raise cash! So what’s he about to do? Sell into a declining market. I just hope they don't try to sell the whole 23%.
The real disconnect that I see in the mutual fund market is the interest in the foreign funds. The Asian markets are touted as a "New Frontier." My jaw can't drop that low, I'm just too old. When Templeton suggested to buy that market, the absurdity of the idea boggled my mind. Don't go there!
Foreign mutual funds in a panic could be dead meat. The natural instinct in foreign countries, in a panic, is to dump the local currency for U.S. dollars. The first thing that their government would do to stem the tide is to pass laws against repatriating the currency. In this case, you could cash in the foreign stock fund into local currency, but what good will that do, you can't convert it to US dollars? I'm not even touching on the corruption in third world Asian markets, Japan included.
So what happens if the stock market drops like a rock? The investors in these stock mutual funds are going to pull out of the fund or wish they had. This will force the money managers to sell into the abyss. In the 1930’s they called it “A run on the bank.” In 2001 it was called a 50% haircut. Get ready for the Mutual Fund Run and by the way, it's not a marathon!