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Investors still buying stocks, but enthusiasm waning

January 31, 2013: 11:25 AM ET
U.S. stock mutual funds raked in $3.5 billion during the week ended Jan. 23, marking the third consecutive week of inflows.

U.S. stock mutual funds raked in $3.5 billion during the week ended Jan. 23, marking the third consecutive week of inflows.

Individual investors continue dip back into U.S. stocks as the Dow and S&P 500 get closer to new record highs, but the pace has slowed.

U.S. stock mutual funds raked in $3.5 billion during the week ended Jan. 23, according to data from the Investment Company Institute, making it the third consecutive week that investors added money to U.S. stocks. Altogether, investors have plowed more than $16 billion into the market during that time period, according to ICI.

The inflows represent a significant departure from the recent trend of investors fleeing the stock market, but are still just a drop in the bucket when you consider that investors yanked more than $150 billion from U.S. stocks during each of the last three years.

Plus, it seems the enthusiasm has already started to wane. During the first full week of the year, investors plowed a record $7.7 billion into U.S. stock mutual funds, nearly twice the latest weekly inflow amount.

Related: What's behind the bull market

U.S. stocks have been steadily rising since the start of the year, with the Dow and S&P 500 gaining about 5%, and both indexes are now within spitting distance of their all-time highs reached in October 2007.

As investors stepped back into the stock market, CNNMoney's Fear & Greed Index shifted deep into extreme greed. Just two months ago, it was sitting in fear. While there's definitely been a shift in sentiment, investors remain cautious. The current bull market is entering its final phase, which can last awhile but which can also cause some volatility.

Meanwhile, investors' love affair with bonds is going strong, despite growing worries of a bond bubble. During the latest week, they added more than $8 billion to bond mutual funds, ICI data showed. That brings the year's total inflow into bonds to more than $28 billion. In 2012, investors flooded bond funds with more than $300 billion.

Hybrid funds, which invest in both stocks and bonds, remain in favor among investors, gaining $1.9 billion in the latest week.

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