Investors in February pulled an estimated $3.7 billion from U.S. stock-focused mutual funds, dashing hopes of a rebound in demand for equities, while showering $19.7 billion on taxable bond funds, according to a report from Morningstar.

After investors pulled almost $26 billion from U.S. stock funds last year, analysts thought the trend might have turned around in January, when investors added a net $2.7 billion. But the one-month inflow ended in February, fund analysts at Morningstar wrote in their latest monthly report.

Bond giant PIMCO was the top recipient of new money in February, receiving $7.2 billion in net inflow. Privately held Vanguard Group was second, receiving $6.9 billion in net inflow, followed by the fund unit of bank JPMorgan Chase , which got $2.7 billion.

Investors continued to flee American Funds, withdrawing $2.4 billion in February after yanking almost $1 billion the prior month and $23 billion in 2009. Legg Mason also remained out of favor, seeing $478 million slip out the door after $461 million departed in January and $5.1 billion in 2009.

In addition to the continued popularity of taxable bond funds, municipal bond funds gained. Investors added almost $5 billion to muni funds in February, about the same as in January. The total $10.1 billion of inflow was the strongest two-month start ever experienced, Morningstar said.

Index-based exchange-traded funds received net inflow of $4.6 billion in February, reversing $16.7 billion of net outflow in January.

(Reporting by Aaron Pressman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)