While fixed-income exchange traded funds continued to gather steam, equity picks are making a comeback as investors funnel more money into international assets.

According to a Schwab research note, there was renewed interest in both U.S. and international equity ETFs over the fourth quarter of 2012. International equity ETF inflows rose sharply in the fourth quarter, accounting for almost half of total ETF flows. Additionally, there was also a five-fold increase in international fixed-income ETF flows across client accounts custodied at Schwab. [Global ETF Assets Cross $2 Trillion Mark]

Overall, 12-month ETF flows at Schwab were evenly split between RIA clients and retail clients, compared to the higher retail client interest in 2011.

While fixed-income ETFs saw strong inflows over 2012, inflows slowed in the last quarter as retail investors pulled out ahead of the election and fiscal cliff talks.

Year-over-year, sector ETFs inflows doubled in 2012 under clients custodied at Schwab, with flows primarily going into real estate, as well as equity energy for RIA clients. However, interest in sector ETFs waned in the last quarter, dropping to just 6% of total flows.

Dividend ETFs also attracted interest through 2012, but new inflows slowed noticeably through the year, and by the the fourth quarter, new inflows dropped off completely across all Schwab client segments.

For more more information on ETF flows, visit our ETF performance reports category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.