Tag Archives: iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund

Small ETFs Struggle as 18 Funds Hold Half of Industry’s Assets

If you’re looking for a reason why many of the ETFs launched last year failed to raise the $30 million in assets necessary to turn a profit and stay open take a look at the $10 Billion Club.

While there are more than $1 trillion in assets in the entire U.S. ETF industry, the majority are confined to about 100 funds, “leaving the other 1,300 ETFs in the dust,” says ETF Database.

Yesterday, I said many investors remain risk-adverse in today’s volatile market, leaving them squeamish about buying into hypertargeted ETPs. They prefer to stick with big, liquid funds tracking well-known indexes both because they understand what the index tracks and because they can get out quickly in an emergency. Other reasons why small, niche funds are having a hard time gathering assets is because institutional investors and investment advisors are restricted to buying products with minumum requirements for assets under management, average daily volume and age of the fund.

This leaves just 18 ETFs holding nearly half the assets of the entire ETF industry, according to ETF Database, which calls the group the $10 billion club because they all have more than that under management.

It’s no surprise who tops the list:

SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
SPDR Gold Trust (GLD)
Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (VWO)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM)
iShares S&P 500 Index Fund
PowerShares QQQ (QQQ)

The big surprises to my eyese were the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond Fund (LDQ) and the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (HYG).


If Korea Becomes a Developed Nation

Index providers put a lot of time and effort into deciding whether countries are classified as developed or emerging nations.

The choice, to an outsider, seems simple. The U.S. is a developed country, and China is emerging. But breaking that down into a rule-set is more of a challenge. Each of the major index providers looks at a different set of criteria to make its determination.

With billions of dollars tied to each market, these classification systems matter, and countries lobby index providers hard to convince them that they meet this or that criteria.

For ETF investors, the index provider that matters most in this regard is MSCI, which dominates the market for both developed and emerging market international ETFs. MSCI has an annual review process for evaluating economic development status based on economic development, size and liquidity requirements, and market accessibility criteria. It maintains watch lists of countries that are under consideration for status changes.

In the middle of 2010, Israel jumped from emerging to developed status in the MSCI system, as it finally was judged to fully meet MSCI’s criteria for developed markets. Based on a 2008 consultation report from MSCI, the country’s graduation was primarily held up by concerns about market accessibility, but currently, the only remaining issue of concern, MSCI says, is the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s settlement cycle, which is shorter than is normal for a developed market. The issue is considered a minor one and did not prevent the country’s promotion to developed status.

Among other things, the promotion pushed Israel out of the broadly followed MSCI Emerging Markets Index and into the pre-eminent benchmark for measuring developed international equity performance, the MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia and the Far East).

Investors always want to know what will happen to a country’s market when a graduation event takes place. Viewed from a static ETF-only lens, the answer is simple. On April 30, 2010, there was roughly $60 billion in ETF money invested in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index via the Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM). Israel had a 4 percent weight in the index, meaning the funds likely had in the area of $2.4 billion invested in Israeli equities at the time. When MSCI promoted Israel, those funds had to sell.

The next countries likely to graduate in the MSCI system may be bigger deals. In both 2009 and 2010, MSCI decided after careful review to leave both South Korea and Taiwan in the emerging markets index. They won’t be up for review again until June 2011. If chosen, they would make the switch in the middle of 2012. If that happens, MSCI would have to decide whether to make the transition over a period of time in a step process, or all at once.

Both countries meet many of the requirements MSCI has of developed nations. Korea satisfies the criteria in economic development, size and liquidity, but it fails on three levels: the lack of an offshore currency market for the Korean won; investor accessibility; and continued anti-competitive practices. With no active offshore currency market, investors need to exchange their money into won during Korean trading hours in order to trade. However, the limited trading hours means Korea’s market is mostly closed when Western markets are open. Meanwhile, a rigid identification system limits investor accessibility in the use of omnibus accounts. For instance, instead of Fidelity Investments having one account, it needs to set up separate accounts for each mutual fund that wants to trade in Korea, creating a very inefficient system. Finally, stock market data continues to be subject to contractual anti-competitive practices as a way to keep trades on the Korean market.

Taiwan also meets the economic development criteria, along with the size and liquidity requirements. However, market participants have said Taiwan’s overall market accessibility is comparable with that of Korea’s. MSCI said the “lack of full convertibility of the new Taiwan Dollar and restrictions associated with the Foreign Institutional Investors identification system were raised as areas where significant progress is still required.”

But if South Korea and Taiwan resolve these issues, the impact will be large.

For the full story go to IndexUniverse.com.

GlobalShares Takes on EAFE

GlobalShares made its second foray into the ETF market last week with a mild twist on an old favorite, it adds Canada to the developed world outside the U.S. The GlobalShares FTSE Developed Countries ex US Fund (GSD) launched Feb. 10 on the NYSE Arca. It tracks the FTSE Developed ex US Index, which is comprised of more than 1,400 stocks in 23 developed countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

It’s a pretty bold move considering GSD is going against one of the most popular funds on the market, the iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA). The MSCI EAFE, which stands for European, Australasian, and Far Eastern markets, is the most popular benchmark for tracking the world outside the U.S. It’s the fourth largest ETF in the world, according to the National Stock Exchange, or NSX, with $33.64 billion in assets under management.

Right off the bat, both funds have the same top ten holdings, although with different weightings. GlobalShares representatives call it the low-cost alternative. However, it charges the same 0.35% as EFA. In fact, the real low cost alternative is the Vanguard European Pacific ETF (VEA), which also tracks the MSCI EAFE, for just 0.16%. VEA is the 37th largest ETF in the U.S. with $4.22 billion in assets, according to the NSX. In addition, the bigger funds offer instant liquidity and very low volatility.

With 7.1% of the GSD portfolio, Canada will make the big difference here. Cinthia Murphy of IndexUniverse says Canada “carries a lot of weight in the commodities markets, and commodities have been a hot ticket in recent months.” She adds WisdomTree and PowerShares have ex-U.S. funds with Canadian stocks, but these don’t have a market-cap weighting like the GSD.

GlobalShares says over the past ten years, the FTSE Developed ex US Index beat the MSCI EAFE 2.58% to 1.79% on an annualized basis. However, commodities have taken a hit lately, and the one month returns favors the EAFE -4.40 vs. -4.77

GlobalShares is the ETF unit of Old Mutual Global Index Trackers, an index tracker/fund manager with the bizarre abbreviation OMGxT. Looks like “Oh My God” times taxes. OMGxT is a unit of mutual fund stalwart Old Mutual, an asset manager with $400 billion under management. Based Johannesburg, South Africa, the 165 -year-old firm became the first African company to list an ETF on the New York Stock Exchange with the December launch of the GlobalShares FTSE Emerging Markets Fund (GSR), which tracks the FTSE Emerging Markets Index. That fund also takes on the big boys, especially the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM), the third largest ETF in the world, with $35.53 billion in assets.

Old Mutual expects to launch three more ETFs within the coming weeks.

ETFs See Cash Inflows Even as Asset Values Fall

ETFs and ETNs continue to see net cash inflows even as total assets under management fall. The conclusion is this is a function of just falling asset values.

According to the National Stock Exchange (NSX), at the end of November, total U.S. listed ETF and ETN assets fell 16.8% to $487.6 billion from $585.8 billion in November 2007. However, net cash inflows for the month were $26.4 billion, bringing the total net cash flow for the 11 months through Nov. 30 to $136.8 billion. In November, 315 ETFs saw net cash inflows, while 179 saw outflows. ETNs split at 16 each.

Notional trading volume in both ETFs and ETNs fell 33% in November from October to $2.2 trillion. Surprisingly, this represents a record 43% of all U.S. equity trading volume, up from 38% in October. That just shows how much total equity volume must have fallen off. At the end of November 2008, the number of listed products totaled 843, compared with 650 listed products one year ago and 806 in October.
According to the NSX, the only ETF firms that saw assets grow are State Street Global Advisers, ProShares, Van Eck and

Ameristock/Victoria Bay. All those firms saw net cash inflows for the year through Nov. 30 increase compared with the first 11 months of 2007. Vanguard did as well. ProShares’s assets under management rocketed 112% to $20.9 billion. SSGA’s assets grew 8.3% to $142.9 billion. This really shouldn’t be a surprise. ProShares sponsors the inverse and leveraged ETFs that have proved hugely popular in the market turmoil. SSGA sells the largest, most liquid ETF, the SPDR (SPY), which tracks the S&P 500. Many investors making a flight to safety or seeking a place to hold cash on a temporary basis will move to the S&P 500. Even as the S&P 500 sinks, the SPDR’s 2008 net cash inflows have surged 86% year-over-year through Nov. 30 to $18.23 billion.

Meanwhile, BGI’s iShares saw assets tumbled 29% to $229.3 billion.

Firms with net cash outflows in November included PowerShares, $309 million, and Merrill Lynch’s HOLDRs, which saw redemptions of $889 million. Surprisingly, the HOLDRs saw net cash outflows of $3.6 billion in 2007, but are up $1.2 billion so far this year. Other firms that experienced outflows in November were WisdomTree, FirstTrust, and SPA-ETF. Firms with net outflows year-to-date include Bank of New York, Rydex, X-Shares, Ziegler, FocusShares and BearStearns. The last two have gone out of business this year. Rydex is suffering as the strengthening dollar hurts its CurrencyShares.

As for ETNs, Barclay’s iPath family saw assets plunge 36% to $2.6 billion. In November, iPath saw outflows of $39 million. Morgan Stanley/Van Eck ETNs recorded outflows of $16 million in November. Meanwhile, Goldman Sach’s ETNs net cash outflows grew to $97 million year-to-date. Comparisons are not relevant for many of the other ETN firms as they had few funds, if any, last year.

Among the top ten ETFs and ETNs, the SPDR (SPY), iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA), SPDR Equity Gold (GLD), iShares S&P 500 Index Fund (IVV), iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index Fund (IWF) and iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund (IWM) all saw net cash inflows in November, according the NSX. Of the 10 largest funds, these saw outflows last month: iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM), PowerShares QQQ (QQQQ), iShares Barclays Aggregate Bond Fund (AGG) and the Dow Diamonds (DIA).

The NYSE Group also releases volume data for its exchanges. Average daily matched volume for ETFs, or the total number of shares of ETFs executed on the entire NYSE Group’s exchanges surged 93.5% to 672 million shares from 347 million shares in November 2007. Total matched volume for the month totaled 12,765 million shares, a 75.1% increase. Total volume year-to-date through Nov. 30 jumped 74.7% from the same period last year to 102,583 million shares.

Handled volume, which represents the total number of shares of equity securities and ETFs internally matched on the NYSE Group’s exchanges or routed to and executed at an external market center, totaled 14,813 million shares last month, a 77.6% surge over the year-ago month. Average daily handled volume rocketed 96.3% to 780 million shares from 397 million shares a year ago. Year-to-date total volume climbed 78.1% to 117,629 million shares.

The NYSE also reported total ETF consolidated volume for the month leapt 92.1% to 45,151 million shares, while total average daily volume soared 112.3% to 2,376 million shares. Year-to-date, total consolidated ETF volume surged 119.4% over the first 11 months of 2007 to 355,133 million shares. I think those refer just to the NYSE Group.