ETF Stats For April 2016: Smart Beta ETFs Surpass 600

Twenty-six new ETFs came to market in April, producing the briskest pace of the past six months. Only five delistings occurred during the month, and the net increase of 21 results in a tie for the largest increase of the past nine months. April ended with 1,884 listed products, consisting of 1,681 exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) and 203 exchange-traded notes (“ETNs”). Assets rose by $37.6 billion to a new high of $2.2 trillion. Inflows accounted for $12.5 billion of the increase, while the other $25.1 billion were the result of market gains. The year-to-date percentage increase in assets is relatively modest at 4.2%, and the year-over-year gain is just 3.7%. Asset gains are not keeping pace with the 10.6% increase in product count the past 12 months. Smart-beta, or alternative-beta, funds were once again prevalent among the new ETFs in April, numbering 16 in all. Three of the closures fit the alternative-beta category, pushing the overall count 13 higher to 607. Of the 69 new ETFs introduced so far this year, 47 (68%) are smart-beta funds, 10 are actively managed, and 12 track traditional cap-weighted indexes. However, the dozen traditional ETFs aren’t all vanilla, as six are either leveraged or inverse funds, and three use adaptive currency-hedging techniques. Actively managed ETFs took a big jump in April, increasing their ranks by seven to 143. Two of the new actively managed ETFs are “gold hedged” from new sponsor REX. They are both fund-of-funds ETFs that use an overlay of gold futures to effectively hedge away exposure to the U.S. dollar. Although REX claims to be the “first” to offer gold-hedged ETFs, UBS has been offering the ETRACS S&P 500 Gold Hedged ETN (SPGH) for more than six years. However, investors will likely prefer the ETF structure of REX Gold Hedged S&P 500 (GHS) over the ETN structure of SPGH. The most notable closure during April was the forced delisting of the DB Commodity Long ETN (DPU). It is notable because DB has no plans to liquidate the product and return the money to owners of the notes. The NYSE suspended trading and delisted the product because DPU was not meeting the minimum market value of $400,000 required for continued listing. The good news is that this ETN is so small that very few investors will be affected. The bad news is the notes do not mature for another 22 years. If owners are not willing to wait that long, then they will have to pursue a sale in the over-the-counter markets. Additionally, if owners happen to hold 100 ETNs, or multiples thereof, then they can possibly partake in Deutsche Bank’s monthly small-lot redemption. Good luck with that. Trading activity declined 12.0% for the month, marking the third consecutive month of double-digit drops. These three months combined to produce a 31.9% plunge in trading activity to $1.28 trillion from January’s $2.2 trillion in ETF dollar volume. April’s activity saw just 10 products averaging more than $1 billion a day, although these 10 represented an impressive 48.7% market share. The quantity of products averaging more than $100 million a day in trading activity dropped from 97 to 94 and accounted for 86.4% of trading activity. 

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Disclosure: Author has no positions in any of the securities, companies, or ...

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