Category Archives: First Trust

What Happens When HACK Gets Hacked By Insider

Investors in the PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF (HACK) woke up Aug. 1 to find their fund had a new name, ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF, and tracks a new index.

a stunning development, the fund’s advisor, ETF Management Group, had rebranded the entire family of PureFunds ETFs with the ETFMG name, and began following indexes from a new firm called Prime Indexes.

Since the change, $36 million has flowed out of HACK, which has $1.1 billion in assets, according to Morningstar Inc. The outflow has coincided with a pullback in cybersecurity stocks and the ETFs that invest in them.

While HACK’s old and new indexes both track the same securities, there were some slight changes in the new index to conform with a new methodology and improve implied liquidity, said Sam Masucci, chief executive of ETF Management Group. The change had little effect on the share price.

The story highlights the issues small asset managers without infrastructure can run into. ETF MG is known as the advisor. It provides the infrastructure for operating the ETF and portfolio management, as well as manages the third-party relationships with outsourced services, such as custodians, legal and auditing. ETF MG has 13 funds on the market.

PureFunds was the sponsor, covering most of the costs. Typically, the sponsor’s role is branding, marketing and consumer education. ETF MG is now the sponsor.

Unlike the ETFs of most small asset managers, when HACK launched in 2014 it was an immediate hit. It quickly gathered $1 billion in assets. Andrew Chanin, Pure Funds’ chief executive, was lauded as an ETF wunderkind. Altogether, PureFunds launched eight funds with ETF MG, six of which will continue under the ETF MG name. The other two were closed in July.

“People come to us with ideas that we turn into ETFs and operate. We are a comprehensive service company,” said Masucci. “Their role is market education. With more than a dozen partners, we’ve only had one that went this direction.”

Masucci said the dispute started in April when the board voted to lower the fund’s expense ratio to 0.6% from 0.75% in order to better compete with First Trust Nasdaq Cybersecurity ETF (CIBR), which charges 0.6%. At the point, HACK had $950 million in assets, while CIBR had $218 million.

“I alerted Andrew, and the Nasdaq and Andrew sued us,” said Masucci. “When Andrew sued us he violated provisions in our agreement precluding him from taking any actions that interfered with the operation of the fund. We would have not terminated them if they had not sued us.”

Masucci also said that Chanin did not originate the idea for the fund. He said that came from Kris Monaco and his team at ETF Ventures, a division of ISE, which was later acquired by Nasdaq. Masucci said Nasdaq disbanded the ETF Ventures team. Monaco, who was instrumental in creating the index that PureFunds ISE Cyber Security tracked, is one of the founders of Prime Indexes, which is providing the new index for the fund.

Chanin disputes the claims by ETF MG. He said PureFunds and ISE were partners and they hired ETF MG, not the other way around. And that it was PureFunds and its partners that helped cover the fund’s expenses.

In the complaint filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, PureFunds claims that ETF MG was retained to “empower” PureFunds to launch their ETFs. PureFunds alleges that ETF MG “trumped up false securities violations” with the purpose of obtaining control of the PureFunds business to pocket millions in annual revenue. It also alleges that ETF MG reduced the “profit” that PureFunds was to receive from “their ETFs.”

“The pressure on asset managers to reduce their fees is as great as it’s ever been,” said Ben Johnson, Morningstar’s director of global ETFs research. “The vast majority of flows are going into the ones with absolute rock-bottom expense ratios. That’s the trend.”

HACK has risen 10.4% this year, but is down 4.8% in the past three months. CIBR, which was launched in June 2015, is up 8.3% this year, but also down 4.8% the past three months.

CIBR now has $275.6 million in assets.

The two funds have similar top holdings. HACK’s 39 holdings as of Aug. 15 were topped by Cisco Systems at 4.75%, Palo Alto Networks at 4.49% and Symantec at 4.12%. CIBR top holdings were Palo Alto Networks at 6.87%, Cisco Systems at 6.31%, and Akamai Technologies at 6.09%.

The other funds affected by the change, with assets and expense ratios:

This was originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Advertisements

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

Horizons’ New Korean ETF is First Based on Kospi Index

Horizons ETFs Group, one of the largest ETF families in the world, earlier this month launched its third fund in the U.S. market and its first country-specific one: Horizons Korea Kospi 200 ETF (HKOR).

While other ETFs track the South Korean stock market, including iShares MSCI South Korea Capped ETF (EWY), First Trust South Korea AlphaDEX Fund (FKO) and WisdomTree Korea Hedged Equity Fund (DXKW), Horizons’ new fund is the first to track the Korean blue chip benchmark.

“What makes this significant is that it’s the first U.S. ETF to track an index whose point of origin is South Korea, as opposed to MSCI,” said Arlene C. Reyes, chief operating officer of exchangetradedfunds.com, a site that follows the global ETF market. “The Kospi 200 is to Korea what the DAX is to Germany. It’s important because it’s the index of choice for the South Korean stock exchange.”

Samsung Electronics makes up 21% of the index, with Hyundai Motor at 5.5% and Kia Motors at 2.3%. The information technology sector comprises 32% of the index, followed by consumer discretionary at 17%, industrials and financials at 13% each.

With more than $4 billion in assets, the iShares ETF, which tracks the MSCI Korea 25/50 Index, is the 800-pound gorilla tracking Korea. Its top-10 holdings and sector allocations are similar to the Horizons Fund. EWY has 20% in Samsung Electronics, for example. But the Kospi 200 ETF tracks a more diversified swatch of the stock exchange and 93% of its market capitalization, holding 200 companies vs. iShares’ 105.

Furthermore, HKOR is the cheapest of the bunch, with an expense ratio of 0.38%.

Officially listed in the emerging markets category, South Korea has fallen along with the other emerging-market economies over the past year. EWY is down 7% this year. Topping the reasons for the broad decline are worries about the U.S. Federal Reserve tapering its quantitative easing program and the falling yen, which will make Japan’s pricing more competitive to South Korea.

“Korea is more of an emerged market, as opposed to an emerging market,” said Joe Cunningham, executive vice president at Horizons ETFs Management, Horizons’ U.S. unit. “Compared to the other emerging markets, Korea has greater growth in per capita income, a larger consumer market, a very diversified economy, lower debt levels and the companies are household names.”

Cunningham says another advantage to HKOR is that while options are traded on the iShares ETF, no futures are traded on its index. But options and futures are traded on the Kospi 200, making it the most liquid index in Asia. This gives investors in HKOR 24-hour exposure, which the other ETFs don’t have.

Read more at Investor’s Business Daily.

Hennessy Continues Cautious View on Economy

Even as the stock market surged on Thursday, Neil Hennessy, chairman and chief investment officer of the Hennessy Funds, continues to hold a cautious outlook for stocks and the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 340 points Thursday, or 2.9%, to 12209, while the S&P 500 soared 43 points, or 3.4%, to 1285 after bondholders of European debt were browbeaten by politicians into accepting at 50% write-down to their Greek debt.

While the bondholders’ new Greek haircut removes one black cloud hanging over the markets, Hennessy believes there’s enough negativity in the U.S. economy to remain wary of the near future.

On Tuesday, Hennessy announced the rebalancing of his portfolio for his Focus 30 Fund. He screens for five variables, market cap between $1 billion and $10 billion, no foreign stocks, price-to-sales ratio below 1.5, growth in annual earnings, and stock price appreciation over last six months. This strategy has given the fund a 21.7% annualized return over the past three years, beating the S&P 500’s 17.4%. But over the past year the fund underperformed the index by 50 basis points to 10.37%, as of Oct. 27.

A closer look at the portfolio changes gives an idea of what Hennessy thinks will be the growth sectors next year. The biggest changes were consumer discretionary fell from 50% of the portfolio to 30%, while utilities jumped from 0% to 30%, and consumer staples from 0% to 10%. Meanwhile, financials, health care, and materials all fell to zero. With consumer discretionary down and utilities and consumer staples up this long-term growth mutual fund is so defensive it looks like they’ve battened down the hatches for a big storm.

Much like when I spoke with Hennessy a year ago, he continues to feel one of the biggest problems for business is the lack of leadership in Washington.

One of the biggest issues is that the Dodd-Frank regulations remain mostly unwritten. Without a clear understanding of what the government plans to do about new regulations, taxes, or the new healthcare plan, Hennessy says few companies are willing to hire. And with the presidential campaign picking up steam, he has little hope of clarity before the election.

With unemployment high, economic growth remains low, he added. Highlighting his sentiment is U.S. consumer confidence fell in August to its lowest level since March 2009. Also in August, investors pulled the most money out of mutual funds since October 2008, right after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.

With the yield on the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 2.9%, Hennessy says, just like last year, companies will focus on dividends, either initiating or increasing existing ones, as a way to drive their stock prices higher. Meanwhile, the Dogs of the Dow, the ten highest-yielding stocks in the Dow industrials, currently yield 4.1%, or 30% higher than the 3.2% yield on the 30-year U.S. Treasury Bond. The Hennessy Total Return Fund is a mutual fund that tracks the Dogs of the Dow strategy.

Hennessy says stocks are cheap because market fundamentals, such as price-to-sales, price-to-book, price-to-cash-flow and price-to-earnings, are significantly below their 5-year and 10-year averages. The market’s P/E ratio is currently a multiple of 13, compared to its 5-year average of 16.

If you want to focus on the two main sectors of the Focus 30 Fund check out the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU) or the Consumer Staple Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLP).

Five good ETFs for dividend investing:
SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY)
WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income Fund (DEM)
iShares S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index Fund (PFF)
First Trust DJ Global Select Dividend Index Fund (FGD)
Guggenheim Multi-Asset Income ETF (CVY)

For my full analysis of these five ETFs go to Kiplinger.com.

5 ETFs for the Dividend Investor

If you’re looking to build a portfolio around companies that pay dividends, you’ll find a treasure trove of choices in exchange-traded funds. At least 35 ETFs follow a dividend-focused strategy, investing in income-paying stocks of large companies and small ones, in U.S. corporations as well as firms based overseas. And that doesn’t include the ETFs that invest in real estate investment trusts and master limited partnerships, two groups that tend to offer high yields.

It’s no surprise that dividends have returned to their rightful place as a key building block in investor portfolios. Historically, dividends have accounted for more than 40% of the stock market’s returns. They represent real cash in your pocket now. And after watching their paper profits go up in flames twice during the past decade’s two bear markets, burned investors realize that dividends are the only sure profits they can count on from stocks.

More than that, dividend-paying companies are among the most stable and least volatile companies on the market. The constant need to pay cash means these companies are consistently profitable and have management teams capable of keeping them that way.

Yield — a stock’s annual dividend rate per share divided by its share price — is always an important consideration when building a dividend-based portfolio. SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), an ETF better known as the Spider, tracks Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index; as of December, the ETF yielded 1.8%. SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA), formerly called the Diamonds, yielded 2.5%. If you can get yields of this amount from the key market benchmarks, you should eliminate any fund that pays less.

One of the best strategies is to invest in companies that increase their dividends on a regular basis. Firms that boost their payouts regularly are almost always those that generate steadily rising profits and are run by managers who are confident about the future.

Our top choice is SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY), which tracks the S&P High-Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index. It holds 60 companies from the S&P 1500 Index that have lifted their dividends at least 25 straight years. Most are high-quality, large-capitalization stocks that trade at reasonable prices.

Over the past five years, SDY returned 3.3% annualized, beating the S&P 500 by an average of one percentage point per year. In 2010, the ETF returned 16.4%, compared with the S&P’s 15.1% rise. SDY’s annual expense ratio is 0.35%. (All returns are through December 31.)

For the full write up on the other five ETFs, WisdomTree Emerging Markets Equity Income Fund (DEM), First Trust DJ Global Select Dividend Index Fund (FGD), iShares S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index Fund (PFF), Guggenheim Multi-Asset Income ETF (CVY) go to Kiplinger.com to read 5 ETFs for the Dividend Investors.

IPO ETF Continues to Beat Market

Currently, only one ETF tracks the IPO market, the First Trust US IPO Index Fund (FPX). Since the fund’s April 2006 inception, it’s beaten both the S&P 500 and the small stock barometer, the Russell 2000 by at least 13 percentage points (as of July 9). In 2009, the ETF, which has more than half its assets in large companies, posted a return of 45%, according to Morningstar, beating the Russell 2000 by 18 percentage points and the S&P 500 by 19 percentage points. Year-to-date, FPX is down 2.6% because most IPOs have fallen below their offering price in the aftermarket. This compares to the S&P 500’s 3% drop and the Russell’s decline of 0.19%. The fund charges an expense ratio of 0.6%

The ETF doesn’t buy IPOs the first day, but rather at least seven days after they debut on the market. The fund follows the IPOX 100 US Index, which holds each of its 100 stocks for 1,000 days. In SmartMoney.com, I wrote that for a stock to enter the index it needs to post a first-day pop of less than 50%, hold a market capitalization of at least $50 million, and float at least 15% of its outstanding shares. For more see ABCs of the IPO ETF.