You have heard it before, and while you might not want to, you need to hear it again. All signs point to the fact that ETFs will likely be the epicenter of the next big market blow up. Investors will be familiar with the argument that the “liquidity mismatch” between ETFs and underlying bonds is a big problem, but the reality is that this is also the case in stocks. While small caps and other less-liquid stocks pose a big threat to ETFs which track them, in a market downturn, even quite liquid shares might be set alight by forced panicked selling by ETFs. Bloomberg gives and an example “Imagine that one big investor in an ETF with, say, a 10 percent stake is forced to sell a large part its holding in a single day. There might not be ready buyers for such a large holding, causing the ETF to fall to a price below the value of the assets it owns. This price impact may be exaggerated, as ETF activity intensifies both upswings and downswings”.
FINSUM: The fact that there are also big risks in equities really opened our eyes. We knew about the bond liquidity issue, but the fact that it extends to both small and large cap equities is quite concerning. Then again, there is a fatalistic logic where this all makes sense: ETFs have been the big growth driver since the Crisis, so it makes sense they would be the epicenter of the next one.