By Trevor Hunnicutt
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Investors pulled $4.1 billion from U.S.-based taxable-bond mutual funds, the most since June, as a bond selloff forced interest rates higher and rattled investors, Lipper data for the latest week showed on Thursday.
"Investors are pulling the trigger and are starting, maybe, the rotation out of bond funds," said Tom Roseen, head of research services for Thomson Reuters Lipper.
Municipal bond funds continued to be punished as well, losing $2.1 billion to redemptions. Investment-grade corporate bonds posted $1.3 billion in outflows during the seven days through Nov. 30.
Both categories of bonds had been popular this year before rates started rising along with expectations that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could push policies that stoke inflation. In addition, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates later this month.
The $4.1 billion in bond mutual fund outflows was partially offset by $1.1 billion in opportunistic taxable-bond buying by exchange-traded funds, the Lipper data showed.
High-yield "junk" bond funds took in $342 million, while bonds that invest inflation-protected government debt took in $156 million. Loan-participation funds, invested in bonds that pay out more when rates rise, took in $339 million and delivered a third straight week of positive performance.
"They're being selective," said Roseen.
Investors extended a streak of mostly withdrawals for European funds this year, pulling $335 million in the latest week, according to the data. On Sunday, Italy faces a constitutional reform referendum that could lead to the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, trigger renewed turmoil in the country's battered banking sector, and push the euro zone back toward the edge of crisis.
But Japanese stock funds in the United States, helped by rising stocks and a falling yen, pulled in $158 million in a third straight week of inflows, Lipper said.
Fund investors appeared to bet against a deal by oil producers to stabilize prices, Roseen said, as they pulled $450 million from energy-sector funds.
That deal came through on Wednesday as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to its first oil output reduction since 2008.
Overall, stock funds in the United States posted $961 million in outflows during the week, Lipper said, with mutual fund selling partially offset by ETF inflows. Relatively low-risk money-market funds took in $10.6 billion.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Jennifer Ablan and Leslie Adler)