Japanese life insurance companies shifted more funds to non-U.S. markets, such as Europe and Australia, in the 12 months ended March than in previous fiscal years, according to financial and planning managers of major insurers.

In recent years, about half of these companies' net foreign investment growth went to the United States. The U.S. share, this past year, probably dropped to somewhere between 30 percent and 40 percent, the sources said.In fact, some companies might have cut their U.S. investment by as much as 20 percent to 40 percent compared with the previous year, industry sources said.

For example, net purchases of U.S. Treasuries and real estate by Japanese life insurers during the fiscal year were down from the previous year, they said.

Japanese life insurers plan to report account statements for fiscal 1989-90 at the beginning of June, said a spokesmen at a major Japanese life insurer.

The companies continued to invest 20 percent of their new funds in overseas investments. The changing investment pattern for that 20 percent reflects an expectation of high returns linked to the EC's planned economic union in 1992.

However, this does not mean Japanese life insurers intend to stop buying U.S.-dollar assets.

Sources said they continue to purchase a large amount of U.S. Treasuries and stocks because the companies regard U.S. markets as the most suitable and attractive for their fund management.

''Fund shifts to non-U.S. markets is an old story," said a manager in the foreign securities investment division at a major Japanese life insurer.

"But our investment is mainly based on each market's scale. For this reason we continue to put the biggest priority on the U.S. Treasury market for our fund management."