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DIP IN OIL PRICES TRIGGERS RUN ON ENERGY FUNDS

With oil prices falling, investors are withdrawing millions of dollars from mutual funds that specialize in energy stocks, according to data gathered for Money magazine's Small Investor Index.

After climbing to a recent peak of $20.50 a barrel in April, the oil price has dropped about 15 percent to $17.50 over the past 12 weeks. Analysts attribute the slide to increased production by OPEC nations and non-OPEC countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Colombia. The production surge has hurt energy stock prices. For example, shares of major oil companies have gained 14.7 percent this year, vs. 21.7 percent for Standard & Poor's 500.Hoping to find bigger profits elsewhere, investors have pulled $215 million out of energy funds over the past three months, according to AMG Data Services of Arcata, Calif. By contrast, they had invested more than $275 million in such funds during the previous three months.

For example, shareholders pulled a net $33 million out of $53 million Invesco Strategic Energy in May, June and July after adding a net $29 million to it in February, March and April.

Some petroleum analysts like the outlook for the energy sector.

"Increased demand in the Pacific Rim and South America could boost oil prices to $19 or $20 a barrel by year-end," said George J. Gaspar, oil analyst at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. As a result, he says, major oil stocks should outperform the S&P 500 starting in early fall and into 1996.

Last week, the Money index, which tracks the value of the typical investor's holdings, fell $270 to $55,373. Stocks lost $312, bonds rose $22. CDs and money funds added $13 and gold gained $3.