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Money market mutual fund assets fall below $3 trillion

Money market mutual fund assets have fallen below $3 trillion for the first time since November 2007, as investors continue to hunt for better returns on their cash.

Total money fund assets slumped $75.6 billion to $2.99 trillion in the seven days ended Tuesday, fund tracker iMoneyNet said Wednesday.

That brings the year-to-date outflow to $270 billion, a sharp acceleration from last year’s pace. Money funds saw $498 billion pour out in all of 2009.

This week’s outflow stemmed in part from corporate withdrawals to make federal tax payments due March 15, iMoneyNet said. But the stock market’s rally also is drawing cash, and individual investors continue to pour record sums into bond mutual funds.

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What’s more, rising yields on other short-term investments have been luring investors fed up with money funds’ rock-bottom yields.

The average taxable money fund’s seven-day annualized yield now is a record-low 0.02%. By contrast, six-month U.S. Treasury bills now yield about 0.23%, up from 0.13% in mid-January. Three-month T-bill yields have risen to 0.15% from 0.04% in mid-January.

T-bill yields have gotten a boost in part from a jump in short-term borrowing by the Treasury this year under a program the government is using to help the Federal Reserve manage its massive balance sheet.

A T-bill yield of 0.23% isn’t much -- but it’s 10 times the average money fund yield.

tom.petruno@latimes.com


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