Category Archives: Commodities

She is Belle of ETF.com Awards

Women might not have broken the ultimate glass ceiling in American politics, but they took the top prizes at the ETF.com Awards.

Yes, it’s awards time again for the ETF industry and starting off the festivities was ETF.com, a Web site full of stories, tools and fund analysis.

The SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF, with the ticker (SHE), swept the ceremony by walking away with four of the top awards, more than any other ETF has taken home in the history of this specific award ceremony. The fund won Best New ETF, Most Innovative New ETF, Best New U.S. Equity ETF and Thematic ETF of the Year.

girl-v-bull

Fearless girl courtesy of SSGA

Were the judges trying to soften the blow women took on the political plane this year? Possibly. State Street Global Advisors, the sponsor of the fund, is responsible for installing the “Fearless Girl” statue near Wall Street on International Women’s Day last month. The statue represents the lack of gender diversity on Wall Street and the executive suites of U.S. corporations in general.

State Street said it created SHE, as the Gender Diversity Fund is affectionately known, to “invest in large-capitalization companies that rank among the highest in their sector in achieving gender diversity across senior leadership. SHE offers a means to invest in companies that have demonstrated greater gender diversity within their sector, providing investors with a tool to inspire change and make an impact.”

According to a 2015 paper from MSCI ESG Research, companies in the MSCI World Index with strong female leadership saw a return on equity of 10.1% per year compared with 7.4% for companies lacking suck leadership. We would be remiss if we failed to point out that on State Street’s board of directors only three of the 11 are women.

It appears the “Fearless Girl” is creating a lot of buzz too, as she stands facing the famous “Charging Bull” statue of Wall Street. The Bull’s creator thinks the girl statue violates his artistic rights and changes the meaning of his statue, which represents the strength of America and the market.

The Best ETF of 2016 was actually the VanEck Vectors Fallen Angel High Yield Bond ETF (ANGL). This award is given to a fund that did its job particularly well in a particular year. In 2016, this fund surged 25%, at least 10 percentage points more than its main competitors in a year when high-yield bonds were posting great returns.

I’ll just let ETF.com explain how the fund works: “Typically, investors hold bonds at different tranche levels, and as soon as a bond falls out of the investment-grade bucket, every insurance company must sell all of it, pushing these bonds into oversold territory, the result is that these downgraded bonds tend to outperform almost immediately after being downgraded – the very juice ANGL is extracting. What’s more these newly downgraded bonds don’t carry that much more default risk.”

For full list of ETF.com awards click here.

Emerging Market ETFs Rally in Spite of Trump Trade Threat

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, emerging-market ETFs tumbled as investors feared that the new administration’s protectionist trade policies would hurt the countries in these markets. But then a funny thing happened. After ranking as one of the worst-performing sectors in the last quarter of 2016, emerging- market ETFs began the new year with a rally and are outperforming U.S. stocks.

So far this year, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) has jumped 10%, iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) leapt 10%, and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) climbed 10% vs. 5% for the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY).

Part of the reason is that prior to the election, 2016 had been a pretty good year for emerging markets. Because many emerging markets are tied to commodities, the prior four years had been pretty bad because of falling commodity prices and slowing growth in China. But in 2016, commodity prices began to rise and China’s economic slowdown stabilized.

A big part of the postelection drop was out of concern for the economy of Mexico should Trump attempt to renegotiate Nafta and anxiety over trade barriers with China, according to Mitch Tuchman, chief investment officer at Rebalance IRA, a retirement investment advisor, in Palo Alto, Calif.

Robert Johnson, Morningstar’s director of economic analysis, said the recent performance is a continuation of last year’s rally. He also said companies and investors have begun to think that, in the wake of Trump’s mishandling of the immigration ban, he might not be able to implement his trade policies, especially as he gets pushback from industries hurt by trade bans and tariffs.

Also, since the trade policies haven’t yet been defined and investors think most emerging markets, besides Mexico and China, won’t be affected, they’re jumping back in.

“After five years of underperformance, emerging markets were oversold, and the election flushed out the remaining people hanging on,” said Gerald Laurain, chief investment officer with FTB Advisors, an RIA in Memphis, Tenn., with $4 billion in assets under management. “So now that they’ve established a low, the only place to go isup.”

J.J. Feldman, a portfolio manager at Miracle Mile Advisors, a Los Angeles-based RIA, said the valuations are much more compelling. The price/earnings ratio on the emerging markets is 12 vs. an expensive 18 on the S&P 500. He added that emerging- market stocks are yielding 2.25% vs. the S&P’s 2%.

Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, an asset manger in Westport, Conn., has a different angle. “When there is protectionism, America is the loser,” he said. “And tariffs will backfire. People are making the connection that it will weaken the dollar. Meanwhile, the euro is bottoming out and that is better for emerging markets.”

“Europe seems to be doing better, and it’s more important to China than the U.S.,” said Johnson. “There’s better growth there, no new rules and other markets they can sell into.”

So far through this year, the top country-specific ETFs are all in emerging markets. IShares MSCI Brazil Small-Cap (EWZS) has soared 30%, VanEck Vectors Brazil Small-Cap (BRF) surged 26%, iShares Brazil Capped (EWZ) is up 18%, Global X MSCI Argentina (ARGT) up 16%, and KraneShares CSI China Internet (KWEB) up 16%.

After a brutal two-year recession in Brazil, during which President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and replaced by Michel Temer, the country is finally expected to be on the road to recovery. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles expects the Brazilian economy to return to a 2% annual growth pace by the last quarter of the year. Wall Street is forecasting a more realistic 0.2% growth rate in 2017 gross domestic product. Brazil’s economy is driven by resources and commodities. Its top commodity exports are oil, iron ore, soybeans, sugar cane and coffee.

While China is seeing its economy slowing, with GDP expected to post growth of 6.7% for 2016, that’s the kind of slowdown most country’s would kill for. Right now China is dealing with a cooling housing market, explosive growth in debt, and painful structural reforms instituted by President Xi Jinping.

“E-commerce is going well and that is tapping into a strong part of the economy,” said Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Wealth Management, an RIA, in Salem, Mass. Lutts spends a lot of time traveling in China. “Investing in Alibaba is like investing in Amazon.com.”

Lutts said that China will have a big challenge over the next five years with a big debt bubble that will have to be distributed over the rest of the economy. This will bring the economic growth rate down to 5% by 2020. “They will have stress when the real estate bubble comes down in price, and that will hurt the smaller banks in the next six months.”

But Lutts is very bullish on India. For the fiscal year ended March 2016, India’s economy grew 7.9%, and Lutts said it could go higher. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is instituting reforms to remove government obstacles to business and make the government more efficient. Lutts said his favorite way to invest in India is in the financial services sector.

He thinks HDFC Bank is one of the best-managed banks in the world. It’s also the top holding of iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA), No. 3 in WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI), No. 2 in iShares India 50 ETF (INDY) and No. 3 in PowerShares India Portfolio (PIN). The ETFs’ year-to-date gains range from 8.8% to 9.8%.

Overall, all the experts think that because Europe is growing and Trump’s policies are still undefined, emerging markets should keep rising throughout the year.

Orginally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

WisdomTree Wins ETF of Year at ETF.com Awards As ProShares Walks Away With 4 Statues

It’s award time again.

Much like Spring follows Winter, although reports of more snow this weekend are leading some to question that, the ETF industry starts its period of self-congratulations on the heels of the Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes.

ETF.com, the self-proclaimed world’s leading authority on exchange-traded funds, started the season off with their second annual awards banquet.

“Our awards try to recognize the products that make a difference to investors,” said Matt Hougan, president of ETF.com. “The ones finding new areas to put money to work.” The awards are determined by a panel of experts chosen by ETF.com.

Held at The Lighthouse restaurant at New York’s Chelsea Piers March 19, ETF.com wins the prize for best party location. With picture windows overlooking the Hudson River, guests of the cocktail hour took in the sunset over New Jersey before the ceremony started.

The WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity (HEDJ) was the big winner, grabbing the prize for ETF of the Year, while the Market Vectors ChinaAMC China Bond (CBON) won Best New ETF. Not quite sure what the difference is between those two awards, but obviously both funds stand out from the crowd of 117 ETFs issued in 2014.

However, ProShares swept the evening, as the single provider that won the most awards. The twin funds ProShares CDS North American HY Credit (TYTE) and CDS Short North American HY Credit (WYDE) claimed the awards for both Most Innovative New ETF and Best New Fixed-Income ETF.

“We designed these ETFs for investors who want high yield credit exposure that is isolated from interest rate risk,” said Steve Cohen, ProShares managing director.

The fund was also nominated for Best Ticker of the Year with its homophones for “tight” and “wide”. However, the awards announcer had a chuckle by claiming they really were pronounced “tighty whitey”, a reference to his jockey shorts. Best Ticker was awarded to HACK, the PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF.

ProShares also won Best New Alternative ETF for the ProShares Morningstar Alternative Solution (ALTS) and Most Innovative ETF Issuer of the Year.

“We are always striving to deliver new and innovative products to allow investors to build better portfolios,” said ProShares Chief Executive Michael Sapir.

Lee Kranefuss, the man who created the iShares brand of ETFs and built them into the largest ETF issuer in the world won the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award.

In the only speech of the night — thank goodness — Kranefuss said, “ETFs allow people to take control.” He likened ETFs to iTunes, saying “no longer are you limited to what the record company puts out.” He said he’s often been asked if he thought the ETF industry would take off like it has in the 15 years since iShares launched.

“Not really,” said Kranefuss, “we just put out the best products we could put out.”

The other award winners:

Best New U.S. Equity ETF – iShares Core Dividend Growth (DGRO)
Best New International/Global Equity ETF – Deutsche X-trackers Harvest MSCI All China Equity (CN)
Best New Commodity ETF – AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Euro (GEUR) and AdvisorShares Gartman Gold/Yen (GYEN).
Best New Asset Allocation ETF – Global X /JPMorgan Efficiente (EFFE)
ETF Issuer of the Year – First Trust
New ETF Issuer of the Year – Reality Shares
Index Provider of the Year – MSCI
Index of the Year – Bloomberg Dollar Index
Best Online Broker for ETF-Focused Investors – TD Ameritrade
Best ETF Offering for RIAs – Charles Schwab
Best ETF Issuer Website – BlackRock

ETFs Flooded With New Money

Investors flooded ETFs with new money last week, pushing most of the cash into equity funds, even as they pulled dollars out of commodity and bond ETFs.

The $16.7 billion of net inflows that came in during the five days ended July 12 was the largest weekly total of the year, according to a report Morgan Stanley released Tuesday.

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) was the star of the week. The ETF better known as the Spyder dramatically reversed its net outflows for the previous 12 weeks by bringing in half of the industry’s total net inflows for the week with $8.37 billion. It was the Spyder’s largest net inflow since the week of March 12, 2012.

With the Spyder leading the way, U.S. large-cap ETFs generated net inflows of $15.1 billion over the last 13 weeks, the most of any category, said Morgan Stanley. The Spyder accounted for 54% of that total. The total net inflow for all U.S. equity ETFs was $17.3 billion and the combined net inflows for all of ETF Land was $29.0 billion.

Year-to-date, total ETF assets in the U.S. have increased by 11% to $1.5 trillion. Net inflows year-to-date total $92.2 billion.

The commodity ETF category saw the biggest net outflows, losing $636 million for the week. However, all of that came from the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), which posted a weekly net outflow of $900 million. Over the past 13 weeks, commodity ETFs have seen net outflows of $11.73 billion, with GLD accounting for $9.62 billion. The Gold Trust hasn’t posted a net inflow in the past 32 weeks, bringing its market capitalization down to $38.78 billion.

Emerging-market ETFs was the second-worst category, with net outflows for the week at $624 million and for the 13 weeks at $11.05 billion. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) posted the second largest net outflows for the week and 13-week periods at $386 million and $7.03 billion, respectively. In a reflection of the faltering economy in China, the iShares MSCI China ETF(MCHI) had a net outflow of $246 million last week.

Fixed-income ETFs also went negative, posting weekly net outflows of $419 million. For the 13 weeks ended July 12, bond ETFs saw net outflows of $511 million as investors moved into short-duration fixed income and U.S. equity ETFs, said Morgan Stanley.

Among the ETFs market participants expect to fall, the Spyder saw the largest increase in short interest, at $2.0 billion, according to Morgan Stanley. This is the highest level the leading ETF has been at since April 15, and is nearly 10% about the one-year average.

Even as the CurrencyShares Euro Trust (FXE) gained 6.3% over the past year, it continues to be one of the most heavily shorted ETFs as a % of shares outstanding, says Morgan Stanley.

Fidelity Takes on State Street

Reading List for Monday, Jan. 7:

Fidelity’s new push into ETFs means it’s getting into the ring with cross-town rival State Street Global Advisors. The Boston Herald says Fidelity “is getting less and less business from investment advisers because it used to be that an investment adviser would pick a basket of mutual funds and Fidelity would be 30 percent or 40 percent of them.”

Wall Street Sector Selector does some technical analysis on the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and concludes “U.S. stocks and ETFs now face a moment of truth after the recent powerful rally.  Technical resistance and fundamental headwinds persist along with ongoing political uncertainty. “

Ari Weinberg explains in WSJ.com how ETFs lend out their securities for some extra cash. International securities regulators are in a tizzy over how this could cause potential disruptions in the market. But ETFs in the U.S. are much more stable than the derivative-based ETFs in Europe, so it’s not much of a concern on this side of the pond.

Gold Could Rally If We Go Over Fiscal Cliff

Gold is definitely not in a bubble, said Nicholas Brooks, ETF Securities’ head of research and investment strategy, recently. The yellow metal hasn’t experienced the typical exponential rise seen in the run up to the collapse of previous asset price bubbles. As long as countries have to tackle economic problems over the next year, Brooks predicts the price of gold will do well.

“Gold could rally if we go over the fiscal cliff,” said Brooks at the ETF Securities Annual Precious Metals Conference in New York. “There seems to be a growing view that gold may be one of the better hedges against the risk that a policy mistake is made and we go off the fiscal cliff.”

The fiscal cliff is the name given to the dramatic spending cuts across the federal budget that will go into effect January 1, 2013. This is the same day Bush era tax cuts expire, causing tax across the board to increase to the rates seen during the Clinton Administration. The big fear is that spending cuts and higher taxes will hurt the economy so much the U.S. will fall back into a recession. This could also spark another downgrade of U.S. debt by the debt rating agencies. While not good for the economy, such a situation would be good for the price of gold, he said.

Brooks said structural factors continue to support the gold price, especially behavioral changes among the world’s central banks. Prior to the second quarter of 2009, central banks were large net sellers of gold, selling between 10% and 15% of their supply. But in 2009 they became net buyers. Now between 10% and 15% of the annual supply of gold is being bought by central banks, a switch of 30 percentage points which is a net positive for the precious metal, he said.

He also pointed to central banks around the world, including the U.S. Federal Reserve, saying they will continue to increase liquidity until their economies recover.

“Low real interest rates and a decline in the real return on cash are enormously good for gold,” said Brooks. And if later in the year, “European sovereign risk concerns rise again, a relatively high probability scenario, the gold price has the potential to rally strongly, as it did last summer when Spain saw its bond yields rise sharply on growing fears it would not be able to finance its debt payments.”

The British-based ETF Securities says it launched the first exchange-traded commodity (ETC) in the world when it listed the Gold Bullion Securities in Australia and London in 2003. When the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) launched in 2004, it was the first U.S.-listed ETC. Today, GLD, with $73.5 billion in assets, is one of the largest ETP’s in the world.

ETF Securities manages seven precious metal exchange-traded products in the U.S. The ETFS Physical Swiss Gold Shares (SGOL) and the ETFS Physical Asian Gold Shares (AGOL) each charge an expense ratio of 0.39%, one basis point less than the SPDR Gold Shares. ETF Securities’ other products track silver, platinum and palladium.

Jacques Cousteau’s Grandson Creates ETF With AdvisorShares

The marquee name may be Cousteau, but no one wants this new ETF to go underwater.

Philippe Cousteau, the grandson of famed marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau, joined forces with AdvisorShares, the sponsor of the most actively managed ETFs, to create a new socially responsible ETF that hopes to do well by doing good.

The AdvisorShares Global Echo ETF (GIVE) is “the first ETF to be launched with a sustainability mandate,” says Cousteau, the co-founder and president of Earth Echo International, a non-profit that creates programs to educate people on protecting and restoring the oceans. This focus on sustainable investments means the fund’s four subadvisors must look for investments through a screen of sustainability in one of three categories, environmental, social or governance. Sustainable governance means forging strong relations with its community and having strong corporate governance of the company’s funds.

“There can be no environmental sustainability without social sustainability, says Cousteau.

Because of the difficulty in raising money for charitable organizations in the current economy, Cousteau joined with AdvisorShares as a way to fund causes he believes in on a steady basis.

Thus one objective of the ETF is to donate about a quarter of its very high 1.7% expense ratio to the Global Echo Foundation, Cousteau’s new 501 (c)(3) charitable organization. The Global Echo Foundation, which launched with the ETF, hopes to provide resources to solve social issues affecting women and children, environmental conservation and support entrepreneurship through micro-enterprise. It aims to provide investors the best of two worlds: making investments in companies providing a sustainable impact, while also helping Global Echo, and hopefully, realizing a return on their capital.

At the time of the launch, the foundation didn’t know exactly where it would place its donations. Cousteau suggested groups like Girl Effect, which seeks to alleviate poverty by investing in girls, and Grameen Bank, a microfinance organization in Bangladesh.

Four asset managers will each run a quarter of the ETF’s portfolio. Community Capital Management manages sustainable fixed income strategies that invest in bonds that support and finance affordable housing. Baldwin Brothers invests in global equites that follow sustainable investment themes. Reynders, McVeigh Capital Management invests in global equities focuses on sustainability and concentrated growth. First Affirmative Financial Network manages long/short strategies with alternative investments, such as commodities.