Displaying items by tag: ETFs
If you or your clients own any Chinese focused ETFs, you will have noticed a glaring fact—they have hugely variant returns even when the underlying holdings don’t seem that obviously different. China is a study in how different index weightings and configurations can impact returns. For instance, Chinese stocks as a whole have fallen 21% this year, however the 40 or so Chinese focused ETFs in the US market have ranged from a 5% positive to negative 40% return. Even seemingly broad ETFs, like the iShares Large-Cap ETF, have very varying results, as despite the 21% fall, that ETF only dropped 13%. This is because it has a 50% weighting towards financial stocks, which were largely unscathed.
FINSUM: The key point here is to know what you are buying. Each of the indexes being tracked are quite unique, even if you think you are just buying a broad “China ETF”.
BlackRock just reported earnings and the results are not what many expected. Total inflows for the quarter were just $10.6 bn, the lowest since 2016. Interestingly, one of the biggest areas of losses was in passive strategies held by institutional managers, where BlackRock saw $30 bn of withdrawals. The poor results sent BlackRock’s stock to its lowest point since May 2017. BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink blamed the uncertainty about rates and peak earnings as reasons for the outflows.
FINSUM: What is interesting here is that BlackRock is probably in the best position to keep devouring assets, but even it is having trouble.
Every time there is a bout of volatility, the financial media, and inevitably a few market analysts, forecast that ETFs may be at the center of the next flare up. Yet for the most part, ETFs have held up very well to periods of turmoil. Despite this solid performance though, the creeping logic that they might have a problem lingers. The Financial Times has just posted an article which argues that just as ETFs have managed to magnify the rise in equities, they will also exacerbate the fall. Since so many assets are now in passive funds, the risk of a herd mentality—with all investors having similar stop-loss orders—leading to a big selloff seems likely. Further, since there are fewer active managers playing the role of contrarians as the market falls, who is going to be there to insulate the market when it begins to tumble?
FINSUM: The ETF structure has proven itself quite resilient so far. We are not saying there won’t be a problem, but we feel like the underlying problem in the next meltdown might not have to do with ETFs themselves, rather it may just be magnified by them.
Junk bonds have had a rough monthly, and it is not hard to see why. The rise in yields and the anxiety about stocks have combined to push yields on junk steeply higher, from 6.18% on October 1st to 6.61% now. In aggregate, the bonds are down 1%+ this month. However, the truth is that the losses could have been much worse, and within that idea, is an important story. That story is that ETFs, which have offered much greater ease of access to investors, actually seemed to have supported prices in the recent turmoil. The head of bond trading at Oppenheimer put it best, saying “The ETF market, which was supposed to subtract liquidity from credit markets, is actually adding liquidity by aggregating the risk and bringing in people who want to take macro risk as opposed to micro bond level risk … The ETF market ends up providing the live bid-ask spread that even the credit markets themselves cannot generate”.
FINSUM: This is a fascinating argument as it runs counter to the long-running narrative about how fixed income ETFs could cause a big blow up because of a “liquidity mismatch” between ETFs and the underlying asset.
With rates rising and yields finally responding in a big way, you may have been wondering which ETFs tend to perform well in such periods. With that in mind, here is a list of the best performing ETFs in periods of rising rates (since 2008). The stats are from thirty day periods of rising rates, which have occurred 18 times since 2008. The best four are: VanEck Vector Oil Services ETF (6.53% average gain), the SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (4.9%), the United States Oil Fund ETF (4.54%), and the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (3%).
FINSUM: Oil and banking, not really a surprise, but certainly a good reminder for investors. The worst performing funds in the same period tended to be gold funds.