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ETF Funds and Folks Nominated for 2016 Best Of by ETF.com

The 2016 BEST ETF funds and People in the ETF industry...Each year, ETF.com and Inside ETFs orchestrate a list of Best Of-the top ETF funds and ETF industry players who have made the greatest positive impact on the industry and investors in exchange-traded funds. The nomination process and voting process is overseen by five of perhaps the most influential thought-leaders in the space. With that, MarketsMuse ETF curators are pleased to offer an advance look at this year’s categories and a selection of category nominees. Winners will be announced March 30 2017.

ETF.com and Inside ETFs are pleased to announce the finalists for the 2016 ETF.com awards. The awards are designed to recognize the people, companies and products that are driving the ETF industry forward and delivering new value to investors.

ETF.com Award winners are selected in a three-part process designed to leverage the insights and opinions of leaders throughout the ETF industry.

Step 1

The awards process began with an open nomination period running from Dec. 5, 2016, through Jan. 4, 2017. Hundreds of nominations from participants in all corners of the ETF space.

World’s Largest ETF Conference
January 22-25
Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, FL

Following the open nominations process, the ETF.com Awards Nominating Committee—made up of senior leaders at ETF.com, Inside ETFs and FactSet—voted to select up to five finalists in each category. Votes were tallied on a majority basis, and concluded this past weekend. The members of the nominating committee were:

  • Matt Hougan, CEO, Inside ETFs (Chair)
  • Paul Britt, Senior Analyst, FactSet
  • Elisabeth Kashner, Director of ETF Research, FactSet
  • Dave Nadig, CEO, ETF.com
  • Drew Voros, Editor-in-Chief, ETF.com

Winners from these finalists will be selected by a majority vote of the ETF.com Awards Selection Committee, a group of independent ETF experts. Committee members will recuse themselves from voting in any category in which they or their firms appear as finalists. Ties will be decided where possible with head-to-head runoff votes.

Members of the 2016 Awards Selection Committee Include:

  • Kim Arthur, Founding Partner, Main Management
  • Eric Balchunas, ETF Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence
  • Ben Blaisdell, US Trust
  • Rob Glownia, RiverFront
  • Ben Johnson, Director of Global ETF Research, Morningstar
  • Tom Lydon, Editor, ETF Trends
  • Phil Mackintosh, Managing Director, KCG
  • Jason Nicastro, Senior Research Analyst, LPL Financial
  • Tyler Mordy, President & CIO, Forstrong Global Asset Management
  • Todd Rosenbluth, Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research, CFRA
  • Jim Wiandt, Founder, ETF.com

Voting will be complete by Jan. 20, 2017, but results will be kept secret until they are announced at the ETF.com U.S. Awards Dinner on March 30, 2017.

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Lifetime Achievement Award

Awarded annually to one living individual for outstanding long-term contributions to ETF investor outcomes, whether from a position of media, regulation, product provider, investor or other category. Previous winners are not eligible.

ETF of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF that has done the most to improve investor opportunities and outcomes in 2016, by providing access to interesting areas of the market, lowering costs, delivering new exposures or otherwise creating better results for investors. There is no requirement for this award regarding when this fund was launched.

  • Fidelity Total Bond Fund (FBND): The nomination case for Fidelity’s actively managed total bond fund was simple: It crushed its benchmarks and its peers, outperforming 97% of its peer group in 2016.
  • Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF (GSLC): The cheapest smart-beta ETF on the market, GSLC attracted nominator attention by offering quant-active exposure for just 0.09% in annual fees. Investors rewarded it with more than $1 billion in net flows.
  • iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG): With more than $3 billion in net inflows, HYG is the poster child for the massive rise in interest in bond ETFs in 2016, particularly among institutional investors.
  • VanEck Vectors Fallen Angel High Yield Bond ETF (ANGL): Nominees loved the simple investment rationale for ANGL … and the fact that it worked wonders. The fund, which buys debt that has recently been downgraded from investment grade to junk, performed beautifully in 2016.
  • Vanguard Total Market Index Fund (VTI): A perennial favorite of the nominating committee, VTI wins plaudits for being a near-perfect ETF, offering broad exposure, excellent tracking, extreme liquidity and a low price.

Best New ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most important ETF launched in 2016.

Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible.

  • Deutsche X-trackers USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYLB): HYLB got the nod from nominators who applauded Deutsche Bank for adding fee competition into the ETF space: HYLB is priced at just 0.25% compared with 0.50% for its top peers.
  • Fidelity Dividend ETF for Rising Rates (FDRR): This intriguing new ETF, which selects firms that have strong dividend payments and returns that are correlated with rising rates, was described as “the perfect ETF for today’s market.”
  •  JPMorgan Diversified Alternatives ETF (JPHF): “Finally a big name and well-thought-out entrant to the liquid alts space,” wrote one nomination entry, echoing a popular sentiment about an ETF some have called “the hedge fund killer.”
  • NuShares Enhanced Yield U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (NUAG): NUAG solves one of the biggest concerns facing investors: what to do with their bond portfolios. It offers a sensible, rules-based tweak to traditional bond exposure, increasing yield without going crazy.
  • SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE): This well-received ETF was the second-fastest growing ETF launched in 2016. It offers, per one nomination, “a unique opportunity to seek a financial return on gender diversity and create change with capital by providing a transparent, relatively low-cost way to invest in companies that have achieved greater levels of gender diversity at the senior management level.”
  • Vanguard International High Dividend Yield ETF (VYMI): VYMI won plaudits for offering broad-based exposure to high-yielding companies at a very reasonable fee of just 0.30%. The fund looks not at historical dividend yield, but at expected future yield, to select components.

Most Innovative New ETF – 2016

Awarded to the most groundbreaking and disruptive ETF launched in 2016. This is an ETF that is pushing the envelope in terms of what kinds of exposures can be packaged into an ETF.

Best New U.S. Equity ETF – 2016

Best New International/Global Equity ETF – 2016

Best New U.S. Fixed-Income ETF – 2016

Best New International/Global Fixed-Income ETF – 2016

Best New Commodity ETF – 2016

Best New Currency ETF – 2016

There were no currency ETFs launched in 2016, so this category will not be awarded this year.

Best New Alternatives ETF – 2016

Best New Asset Allocation ETF – 2016

Best New Smart-Beta or Factor ETF – 2016

Best New Active ETF – 2016

Thematic ETF of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the most important “thematic” ETF of 2016, as measured by its ability to capture important macro plays that can lead to specific portfolio outcomes. There is no requirement for this award regarding when this fund was launched.

  • 3D Printing ETF (PRNT): 3D printing is super cool, and PRNT is the first ETF to focus on that market. It tracks a tiered, equal-weight index of companies involved in the 3D printing industry, including hardware, software, scanners, measurers and 3D printing centers.
  • Spirited Funds/ETFMG Whiskey & Spirits ETF (WSKY): More than just a great ticker, WSKY offers direct exposure to the hottest trend in spirits. With whiskey consumption growing faster than the price of a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, maybe WSKY is a good bet.
  • PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF (HACK): Hacking stole the headlines in 2016, whether it was Yahoo, the DNC or Donald Trump. HACK offers pure-play exposure to the firms that fight the hackers, and you have to think that business is doing well.
  • PureFunds Video Game Tech ETF (GAMR): Video game contests are now attracting bigger audiences than many professional sports leagues. GAMR offers you a way to “play” that theme, holding companies operating in and around video games and virtual reality.
  • SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE): This well-received ETF was the second-fastest-growing ETF launched in 2016. It offers, according to one nomination, “a unique opportunity to seek a financial return on gender diversity and create change with capital by providing a transparent, relatively low-cost way to invest in companies that have achieved greater levels of gender diversity at the senior management level.”
  • Summit Water Infrastructure Multifactor ETF (WTRX): Infrastructure spending is top of mind in the U.S., and climate change seems to be putting a premium on water. WTRX captures the trend by finding global firms with water-related equity exposure, choosing the best of the best based on a series of fundamental factors.

ETF Issuer of the Year – 2016

Most Innovative ETF Issuer of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF provider that has launched the most innovative and groundbreaking group of ETFs in 2016.

New ETF Issuer of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the new ETF issuer that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through product introductions, product performance, fund management, investor support and innovation. Issuer must have launched its first ETF in 2016. ETF.com considers “issuer” to mean the “brand” of the ETF, as classified by FactSet.

Index of the Year – 2016
Awarded to the index that has done the most to provide new ways of considering investment strategies, opportunities or ideas, or which has simply delivered for investors in a meaningful way.

Index Provider of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the index provider that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through index introductions, research, advisor support and more.

ETF Liquidity Provider of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF liquidity provider (including market maker, authorized participant, agency broker, etc.) that has done the most to improve investor outcomes through education, support, services, innovation and outreach.

Best Online Broker for ETF-Focused Investors – 2016

Awarded to the online brokerage offering the best package for ETF-focused investors. This award will consider commission-free trading options, education materials, supporting services and other factors.

Best ETF Offering: Wire House

Awarded to the wire house that offer its reps and advisors the best total offering in the ETF space, including research, data, tools, trading capabilities and education.

Best ETF Offering: Independent Regional Broker-Dealer

Awarded to the independent broker-dealer offering its reps and advisors the best total offering in the ETF space, including research, data, tools, trading capabilities and education.

Best ETF Research Paper – 2016

Awarded to the published paper from 2016 that most increased our understanding of how ETFs and/or index-based investments affect investor outcomes, whether in portfolios, markets or broader economic context.

Best ETF Issuer Website – 2016

Awarded to the most informative and user-friendly website by an ETF issuer.

Best Index Provider Website – 2016

Awarded to the most informative and user-friendly website by an index provider.

Best ETF Issuer Capital Markets Desk – 2016

Awarded to the ETF issuer providing the most useful support to advisors for ETF trading.

  • Deutsche Bank: Nominations noted that Deutsche Bank made great strides in its capital markets desk this year, to become a true leader in the space. One nominator wrote: “Great partner, incorporated feedback, improved processes, handled complex products smoothly, communicated well, innovative, etc.”
  • FlexShares: “Available anywhere, anytime, for analysis, competitive positioning, context or working with a trading desk of another firm,” wrote one nomination, adding that it always “tells it like it is.”
  • Goldman Sachs: “Goldman Sachs’ Capital Markets team, led by Steve Sachs, helps clients navigate the ETF marketplace through product education and by ensuring the highest-quality market for the firm’s ETFs,” wrote one entry. They’ve successfully placed a number of large block trades in the firm’s new ActiveBeta suite.
  • J.P. Morgan: Nominations called out J.P. Morgan’s desk for being ‘extremely helpful,” and also noted that it was “not afraid to tell market makers what to do.” That sounds like the kind of desk you want on your side.
  • SSGA: With a deeply knowledgeable team, nominators called out SSGA’s unique ability to respond to market crises, guide clients, and put things in perspective even in tumultuous times. “A world-class organization from bottom to top,” wrote one nominator.


ETF Strategist of the Year – 2016

Awarded to the ETF strategist or model portfolio provider that has done the most to improve investor outcomes in 2016. Automated investment services are eligible for this award, as they provide managed portfolios en masse to investors.

ETF Lawyer of the Year – 2016

Awarded annually to the law firm that has done the most to push the ETF industry forward, including driving new and innovative products through the Securities and Exchange Commission, advocating for the industry and the rights of investors, and improving outcomes for investors.

ETF Advisor of the Year – 2016

Awarded to an individual financial advisor or advisor team that is using ETFs to deliver high-quality portfolios to clients in an innovative way.

  • Chudom Hayes Wealth Management: “Consistently at the forefront of innovation in the industry, this group was one of the first ETF-based portfolio managers,” wrote one nomination paper. Others called out its overall leadership in ETFs within MSSB, where it is “one of the largest users of ETF portfolios.”
  • Edelman Financial Services: Regularly ranked the No. 1 independent advisor in the nation by Barron’s, Edelman is a giant, providing high-quality ETF-focused portfolios to the masses (including, admirably, clients with relatively low assets under management).
  • Stocker Woods Financial: A heartfelt nomination for Mike Woods called out his 20-year service to Carl Stocker, where he rose from a low-level advisor to become president and CEO this year. In the past year, Woods’ ETF book—managed through a relationship with CLS—has grown dramatically (up 198%).
  • Ritholtz Wealth Management: Led by the inimitable Barry Ritholtz and Josh Brown, Ritholtz Wealth offers steady ETF-focused portfolios to a growing client list. Nominations noted the “huge role” the firm plays in the media and its recent decision to reward clients who “don’t monkey around with their portfolios” by lowering fees for clients with good behavior.
  • The Veteran Financial Freedom Initiative: This unique partnership offers free or discounted financial planning and portfolio management to veterans, including ETF-only portfolios. The effort is a partnership between Agile Capital, a veteran-owned firm, and Capital Wealth Planning, which funds and covers the operational cost of the effort as a service to veterans.

Institutional ETF User of the Year – 2016

Awarded to an institutional investor that is using ETFs to deliver high-quality portfolios in an innovative way.

  • Houston Firefighters’ Relief And Retirement Fund: A nomination wrote: “In 2016, the Houston Firefighters’ Relief And Retirement Fund, led by Ajit Singh, became an early adopter and innovative user of numerous ETF-only investment solutions. As an example, Ajit and his team implemented a “Long and Lend” strategy using ETFs to take advantage of lucrative securities lending revenue. HFRRF is also an advocate for factor investing and thus implemented a solution to four diversified multifactor ETFs across various exposures.”
  • Lazard Asset Management: Lazard developed the “Lazard Capital Allocator Series” in 2004, and became an early and leading institutional user of ETFs to provide investors with attractive returns using an innovative investment approach. At a time of continued turmoil in the ETF strategist space, Lazard has been a rock of stability, delivering sensible and solid returns.
  • Rockefeller University: Rockefeller has quietly become a major user of ETFs, leveraging the products for transition management for its $2 billion endowment.
  • Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System: Tennessee was nominated for its sophisticated understanding of ETFs and its quant-driven approach to sector investing using ETFs.
  • USAA: “One of the biggest users of factor ETFs in the world,” wrote one nominator. “USAA has been on the forefront of leveraging ETFs to transform how institutional money managers deliver returns.”

New ETF Ticker of the Year – 2016
Awarded to the ETF with the best new ETF ticker. The ETF must have launched in 2016 to qualify.

  • BUZ: Sprott Buzz Social Media Insights
  • MENU: USCF Restaurant Leaders Fund
  • OLD: The Long-Term Care ETF
  • VNLA: Janus Short Duration Income ETF
  • WSKY: Spirited Funds/ETFMG Whiskey & Spirits ETF

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BATS Global is Batty About ETFs-Buys ETF.com

While many people are “koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs”, BATS Global is batty about ETFs. On the heels of launching a dedicated electronic exchange platform for ETF products dubbed BATS Marketplace,  BATS Global Markets announced yesterday that is even more batty about ETFs and to prove it, the exchange operator is acquiring the ETF industry’s leading provider of exchange-traded fund news, data and analytics, ETF.com.

“This is a brand burnishing 201 case study for an otherwise staid electronic exchange industry as operators seek innovative, content-specific applications to distinguish themselves

(MarketWatch.com) Exchange operator BATS Global Markets said Tuesday it would buy ETF.com, a provider of data about the market for exchange-traded funds. BATS CEO Chris Concannon said the purchase “underscores [BATS’s] commitment to the ETF industry and our focus on providing unique, value-added content for issuers, brokers, financial advisors, market professionals and investors.”

ETF.com’s data will add to BATS’s existing proprietary market data and analytics offerings, according to a news release. BATS operates four stock exchanges in the U.S., which represent the largest venue for trading ETFs in the country when taken together, says BATS. Financial terms were not disclosed. The deal is set to close on April 1, according to the statement. The acquisition comes as Lenexa, Kansas-based BATS is trying to grow its ETFs listing platform. The exchange operator last year launched BATS Marketplace, offering to pay ETF providers as much as $400,000 to list on its exchange.

BATS listed 30 new ETFs on its US market last year─11 in December alone, more than any other US market, officials say─bringing its total ETF listings to 56, says the deal will expand the proprietary market data and analytics that BATS offers to support market participants in making “educated trading nad investment decisions.” ETF.com will become an independent media subsidiary of BATS Global.

bond etf liquidity

Calling for Clarity: Corporate Bond ETF Liquidity

There continues to be a call for clarity with regard to the topic of corporate bond ETF liquidity and where/how corporate bond ETFs add or detract within the context of investors ability to get ‘best execution’ when secondary market trade in underlying corporate bonds is increasingly ‘illiquid.’

This not only a big agenda item for the SEC to wrap their arms around, it is a challenge for “market experts” to frame in a manner that resonates with even the most knowledgeable bond market players.

MarketsMuse curators noticed that ETF market guru Dave Nadig penned a piece for ETF.com last night “How Illiquid are Bond ETFs, Really?” that helps to distill the discussion elements in a manner that even regulators can understand.. Without  further ado, below is the opening extract..

“Transcendent liquidity” is a somewhat silly-sounding phrase coined by the equally silly Matt Hougan, CEO of ETF.com, to discuss the odd situation in fixed-income ETFs—specifically, fixed-income ETFs tracking narrow corners of the market like high-yield bonds.

But it’s increasingly the focus of regulators and skeptical investors like Carl Icahn. Simply put: Flagship funds like the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG | B-68) trade like water, while their underlying holdings don’t. Is this a real problem, or a unicorn?

Defining Liquidity

The problem with even analyzing this question starts with definitions. When most people talk about ETF liquidity, they’re actually conflating two different things: tradability and fairness.

Tradability is actually a pretty simple concept: How well will the market let me get in or out of an ETF? And for narrow fixed-income ETFs (I’m limiting myself to corporates, in this analysis), most investors should be paying attention to the fairly obvious metrics, e.g., things like median daily dollar volume and time-weighted average spreads. By these metrics, a fund like HYG looks like the easiest thing to trade ever:

On a value basis, the average spread for HYG on a bad day of the past year is under 2 basis points. It’s consistently a penny wide on a handle around $80, with nearly $1 billion changing hands on most days. That puts it among the most liquid securities in the world. And that easy liquidity is precisely what has the SEC—and some investors—concerned.


But that’s tradability, not fairness. Fairness is a unique concept to ETF trading. We don’t talk about whether the execution you got in Apple was “fair.” You might get a poor execution, or you might sell on a dip, but there’s no question that your properly settled trade in Apple is “fair.”

In an ETF, however, there is an inherent “fair” price—the net asset value of the ETF at the time you trade it—intraday NAV or iNAV. If the ETF only holds Apple and Microsoft, that fair price is easy to calculate, and is in fact disseminated every 15 seconds by the exchange.

But when the underlying securities are illiquid for some reason (hard to value, time-zone disconnects or just obscure), assessing the “fair” price becomes difficult, if not impossible.

If the securities in the ETF are all listed in Tokyo, then your execution at noon in New York will necessarily not be exactly the NAV of the ETF, because none of those holdings is currently trading.

Premiums & Discounts

In the case of something like corporate bonds, the issue isn’t one of time zone, it’s one of market structure. Corporate bonds are an over-the-counter, dealer-based market. That means the iNAV of a fund like HYG is based not on the last trade for each bond it holds (which could literally be days old), but on a pricing services estimate of how much each bond is worth. That leads to the appearance of premiums or discounts that swing to +/- 1%.

To read the full article, please click here

ETF.com June 17 Global Macro Conference Preview

In advance of the June 17 ETF.com Global Macro Conference in NYC, MarketsMuse.com is pleased to provide our readers with a teaser of what is expected to be one of this summer’s best programs for investment managers, RIAs and Family Office practitioners who embrace the underlying approach and value proposition to global macro-style investing.

The speaker panel for the June 17 event includes a selection of the sharpest knives in the drawer and last minute registration can be made by simply clicking on the ad banner on the right side of your screen. We recommend getting there bright and early for the 8:30 am session,  The Map: Geopolitics, Your Portfolio & the Quest for Alpha

For a taste of the talking points that panelists will be touching on, click this link: June 2015 ETF Report Special Edition

To secure your edition of ETF.com June edition of the ETF Report, a special monthly publication that profiles real experts and actionable thoughts, please click here


ETF.com Appoints Matt Hougan as CEO-MarketsMuse

MarketsMuse ETF department extends our congrats to exchange-traded fund guru Matt Hougan in connection with announcement this week that Matt has been elevated to the role of CEO of industry platform ETF.com.

ETF.com, the world’s leading authority on ETFs, named Matt Hougan, a longtime veteran in the world of exchange-traded funds, as its new chief executive officer. Hougan, 38, was previously president of North America for the firm. His appointment as CEO is effective immediately.

“Matt is both one of the world’s foremost experts on ETFs and an exceptional leader for our business,” Barnaby Grist, ETF.com’s chairman, who led the CEO search, said in a press release. “As the use of ETFs expands, Matt’s vision for how to educate, engage with and empower investors and financial advisors will drive better outcomes for investors and continued rapid growth at ETF.com.”

Hougan has worked at ETF.com for more than eight years, and was the fourth employee to join the company. Under his guidance, the company’s U.S. business achieved record results in the past year, including record attendance and revenue at its marquee conference, Inside ETFs, and dramatic growth in its core online and print media properties, ETF.com and ETF Report.

Jim Wiandt, ETF.com’s founder and former CEO, said he has full confidence in Hougan’s ability to lead the company’s next stage of growth. Wiandt founded the company in 2001.

“We chose Matt not just because of his extensive knowledge of exchange-traded products, but because he has demonstrated the organizational and leadership skills required to lead a growing and dynamic organization,” said Wiandt, who is now vice chairman and president of ETF.com’s Europe operation. Wiandt continues a key leadership role on the management team and board of directors.

‘ETF Master’

Hougan, a well-known figure in the world of ETFs who often appears on CNBC, envisions a growing and increasingly important role for ETF.com as more and more investors adopt ETF in their portfolios.

“As that use accelerates, we are more committed than ever to providing clear, independent and ETF-specific education, research and analysis,” Hougan said. “We have exciting plans in place that will help us become even more integral to our users’ investment decision-making and simultaneously reach a larger and larger audience than ever before.”

For the entire story from ETF.com, please click here

ETF-in-a-Box: You Too Can Launch An ETF for Peanuts

The barrier to entry for issuers of ETFs keeps getting lower. What used to cost anywhere between $1mil-$5mil and many months of filing paper work to create and finally launch a new ETF, now, for just only $100k (before marketing/advertising costs), you too can launch an exchange-traded fund in under three months and maybe even become the next iShares or Wisdom Tree. At least that is the premise profiled by Lara Crigger’s post at ETF.com in her coverage of J. Garrett Stevens and his white-label ETF maker, Exchange Traded Concepts LLC, aka “ETC”.

Below is extracted from Crigger’s coverage…

Garret Stevens, President of ETC
Garret Stevens, President of ETC

Six years ago, J. Garrett Stevens, CEO of FaithShares, had just launched his first ETFs. He and his partners sat back, counted their victories, and eagerly waited for investors to bang down the door to buy up the funds.

They never did.

The rest of the story is all too familiar. Stevens and his partners had spent far more than they anticipated on getting their funds to market, with little left over to make sure investors actually knew the funds existed. As a result, the five FaithShares ETFs, despite solid performance, failed to accrue enough assets to survive. FaithShares shuttered its doors in 2011.

But a funny thing happened on the way to dissolution.

“People started calling, wanting to know if they could buy our exemptive relief,” said Stevens. “Or they wanted to know if we could consult and help them launch their own funds, since we’d already been down that road.”

That gave Stevens an idea: a white-label service that would shoulder the burden for would-be ETF providers looking to launch their very own funds. Thus was Exchange-Traded Concept (ETC) born.

To continue reading about Garett Stevens and his new company, the Exchange Traded Concept (ETC), click here


London Likes The Dollar-PowerShares Lists New ETFs on LSE

MarketsMuse ETF update profiles the latest entry to land of exchange-traded-funds with spotlight on Invesco PowerShares listing of U.S. dollar share class versions of its three exchange traded funds (ETFs) on the London Stock Exchange, allowing investors to access U.S. equity markets and trade in the rising domestic currency. Giving credit when due, below is extract from ETF.com

Its three funds – the PowerShares EQQQ NASDAQ-100 UCITS ETF, the PowerShares FTSE RAFI US 1000 UCITS ETF and the PowerShares Dynamic US Market UCITS ETF now all trade in USD and GBP, in response to growing client demand, according to PowerShares. A note from the provider said that in 2014, there was over $110 billion worth of trades in USD across the LSE’s 600 ETP listings, which made up the vast majority of such ETP trades across Europe.

Bryon Lake, head of Invesco PowerShares – EMEA, said the trend for USD listings is increasing and that is why the provider now offers dual listings of its products.

“This is all part of our strategy to broaden our offering in Europe and to enable investors to gain further exposure to key investment strategies,” he said.

And, The Winner Is…According to ETF.com…

MarketsMuse.com ETF coverage profiles ETF.com Awards Ceremony courtesy of opening extract from ETF.com news release. Category winners for “best” and respective ‘runners up’ extend across best issuers, best strategists, best capital markets desk, and best products across equity, fixed income, and currency and include the following products: HEDJ, DXJ, CHNB, ZROZ, BNDX, VTI, EMQQ, FV, IUSB, PDBC, TYTE, WYDE, BCHP, COMT, DIVY, SXOE, DGRO, DVP, FMLP, AIRR, QVAL, ASHS.

The WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (HEDJ) was named the ETF of the Year at the second annual ETF.com Awards held tonight in New York—in no small part because it has been more popular than competing equity strategies designed to protect U.S. investors from the strength of the dollar.

ETF.com, the 15-year-old news, views and financial data company focused exclusively on exchange-traded funds, also honored important individuals like Lee Kranefuss, who built iShares, the world’s largest ETF company; and the fund sponsor First Trust.

The annual awards ceremony, which took place at Chelsea Piers, recognizes the people, products and companies that have been instrumental in moving the 22-year-old ETF industry forward and that have helped create better options and outcomes for investors.

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How One Smart Prop Shop is Trading Oil ETFs

MarketsMuse blog update courtesy of extract from 27 Feb story from ETF.com’s Elisabeth Kashner and her profile of prop trading firm Virtu, the high-frequency (HFT)“Virtu’s HFT Way To Play Crazy Oil Market”


Elisabeth Kashner, ETF.com
Elisabeth Kashner, ETF.com

Would you ever sell something to yourself and pay someone else to be the middleman? Nobody’s that dumb, right?

Virtu, the high-frequency trading firm (HFT) of the type profiled in “Flash Boys,” did just that, to the tune of $32 million.

High-frequency traders are perhaps the most sophisticated players on Wall Street. Some might be scoundrels, but they’re not fools. That’s why their recent trades in oil futures-based ETFs are so fascinating.

Like hedge funds and mutual funds, HFT firms keep their portfolios under wraps, except when the Securities and Exchange Commission requires disclosure.

Virtu’s most recent form 13F, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s quarterly holdings report, revealed a $46 million position in United States Oil (USO | B-100) at the close of business on Dec. 31, 2014. USO buys front-month oil futures. By the end of 2014, with oil prices at a 10-year low, USO shares had taken a beating, as you can see in the chart below.   Continue reading

Leveraged ETFs Chapter 12: Levered and Lightly Levered: Which Direxion To Choose?

MarketsMuse update courtesy of extract from Olly Ludwig’s ETF.com profile of Direxion Shares’ latest levered product. Continuing in the direction of embracing RIAs, Direxion is hoping the latest incarnation will further innovate and provide investment advisors with a new tool. Here’s the opening from ETF.com’s profile….

Olly Ludwig, ETF.com

Just when you thought that the leveraged ETF niche has been carved out and accounted for, New York-based Direxion Shares has come out with what it calls “lightly levered” ETFs that have 1.25X exposure.

To hear Direxion President Brian Jacobs speak to this new ripple in the world of leveraged ETFs, the company aims to give investors a more easily managed investment tool than the 2X and 3X ETFs that have ruled the leveraged roost so far. But, no less, Jacobs told ETF.com that Direxion is looking to reinvent the leveraged ETF for an advisory channel increasingly focused on asset allocation in portfolio construction.

For the full story from ETF.com, please click here


Bond Guru Gundlach Launches Actively-Traded Bond ETF

MarketsMuse update profiling the debut of bond guru and DoubleLine Capital’s founder Jeff Gundlach’s first foray into the ETF space is courtesy of ETF.com.The SPDR DoubleLine Total Return Tactical ETF (TOTL) is launching today (Tuesday, Feb. 24).

The $TOTL exchange-traded fund invests in just about every type of debt security, including investment-grade and junk debt—both sovereign and corporate—from issuers around the globe. The portfolio management team is led by none other than Gundlach himself, and will be advised by State Street, according to the prospectus. TOTL costs a net of 55 basis points in expense ratio, or $55 per $10,000 invested.

Gundlach, founder of Los Angeles-based DoubleLine Capital, is one of the most well-known fixed-income investors in the market today, but until now an absent presence in the quickly growing ETF market.

Partnership With SSgA

Last summer, he joined forces with State Street Global Advisors to bring to market an actively managed bond ETF that would go head-to-head with the Pimco Total Return ETF (BOND | B), which at the time was still managed by Bill Gross. Gross has since left Pimco to join Janus.

Replicating BOND’s success will be no small feat, considering that BOND gathered its first $1 billion in assets in less than three months after launch, and grew to become one of the biggest active bond ETFs in the market. BOND’s success was part Gross himself, part a solid track record of outperformance. TOTL has a powerhouse name behind it, but performance only time will tell.  Continue reading

ETF.com Announces Finalists for ETF Industry Beauty Pageant Awards; 25 Categories; 100+ Nominees

“And the nominees are…” MarketsMuse update profiles ETF industry portal ETF.com annual awards for ‘Best Of’ across 25 different categories, with more than 100 nominees. Winnners will be announced at an awards dinner that will take place March 19 at Pier 61 in New York City.

Below please find the extract from the ETF.com announcement.

“….In recognizing the forces that support the growth of the ETF industry, each year at its annual ETF.com Awards Dinner ETF.com recognizes the people, companies and products that are moving the industry forward. The dinner takes place March 19 at Pier 61 in New York City.

The award selection process follows three steps:

  1. An open nominating process
  2. A “Nominating Committee” composed of senior members of ETF.com’s editorial and analytics components narrows the nominees to a maximum of five in each category
  3. A “Selection Committee” of independent ETF experts votes on the winners.

The nominees are:

Category 1: Lifetime Achievement Award

Awarded annually to one living individual for outstanding long-term contributions to ETF investor outcomes, whether from a position of media, regulation, product provider or investor. Previous winners are not eligible.

Nominee No. 1: John Bogle
From an untiring emphasis on the “humble arithmetic” of indexing, to the customer-owned structure of his brainchild, Vanguard, there’s zero doubt that Jack Bogle is perhaps the biggest reason fund fees are falling and getting lower. Even his cranky critique of the perils of over-trading ETFs is, in its way, laudable: He truly wants what’s best for investors.

Nominee No.2: Lee Kranefuss
You won’t find an executive with more ETF-specific “street cred” than Lee Kranefuss. His almost-evangelical belief that the future of investing belonged to ETFs has been crucial to the rise of the industry. Under his direction, iShares grew to be the biggest ETF issuer in the world, and the unrivaled breadth of the company’s product line serves as the perfect metaphor of the power of ETFs.

Nominee No. 3: Burton Malkiel
Burton Malkiel put indexing on the map with his 1973 book, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” An enthusiastic proponent of index–based investments and ETFs, this Princeton academic remains engaged in many realms of the investment business, not least at chief investment officer of Wealthfront, the biggest player in the new “robo-advisor” field.

Nominee No. 4: Gus Sauter
During his 25-year career at Vanguard, Gus Sauter saw the firm shift from upstart to the biggest mutual fund company in the world. Sauter’s emphasis on indexing, on thoughtful diversification in asset allocation and on encouraging investors to stick to their plans puts Sauter and his nearly decade-long stint as CIO at the very center of Vanguard’s spectacular rise.

Category 2: ETF of the Year – 2014
Awarded to the ETF that has done the most to improve investor opportunities and outcomes in 2014, by opening new areas of the market, lowering costs, delivering new exposures or otherwise creating better options for investors. There is no requirement on when this fund launched.

Nominee No. 1: Global X GF China Bond (CHNB)

As the first ETF to provide access to China’s onshore bond interbank market, CHNB opened up the third-largest fixed-income market in the world. The fund pulled in nearly $50 million in investor flows in 2014, and offered investors the opportunity to access a relatively high-yielding asset with low credit risk.

Nominee No. 2: PIMCO 25+ Year Zero Coupon U.S. Treasury (ZROZ | C-57)
2014 was supposed to be a year of rising interest rates. Instead, rates plunged, and funds on the edge of the duration spectrum like ZROZ returned nearly 50 percent. As the longest-duration US-bond ETF, ZROZ was well positioned to ride 2014’s surprise rate drop. With a 0.15 percent annual expense ratio, ZROZ allows cheap, efficient access to the longest-term U.S. Treasuries.

Nominee No. 3: Vanguard Total International Bond (BNDX | B-57)
Vanguard broke new ground in the ETF world by offering the first global ex-U.S. broad-market bond fund. While other global-ex U.S. fixed-income funds cover parts of the bond universe—sovereigns or corporates—BNDX covers the entire non-USD investment-grade bond market. Vanguard’s choice to hedge BNDX’s currency exposure reduces the number of risk considerations for U.S.-based investors. At 20 basis points, the fund is very well priced, and quite efficiently run. The fund pulled in more than $2 billion in net inflows in 2014.

Nominee No. 4: Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI | A-100)
Among the 38 ETFs offering total U.S. stock market exposure, VTI stands out for best representation and exceptionally low costs. With nearly 3,700 constituents, VTI captures virtually the entire investable U.S. equity market. Better still, VTI actually costs less than its published expense ratio of 5 basis points, with an average actual tracking difference versus its index of just 2 bps. VTI covers the entire U.S. stock market, basically for free; it’s hard to argue with that.
Nominee No. 5: WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity (HEDJ | B-48)
The only nonvanilla ETF to make the top 10 flows list in 2014, HEDJ has captured the attention (and dollars) of tactical investors looking to make a currency-hedged bet on eurozone equities. With the euro on the rocks, its ability to protect against falling currency meant it outperformed non-hedged European equity ETFs by 10-12 percent for the year. HEDJ attracted $4.9 billion of inflows in 2014.

Category 3: Best New ETF – 2014
Awarded to the most important ETF launched in 2014. Note: Importance is measured by the overall contribution to positive investor outcomes. The award may recognize ETFs that open new areas of the market, lower costs, drive risk-adjusted performance or provide innovative exposures not previously available to most investors. Only ETFs with inception dates after Jan. 1, 2014, are eligible.

Nominee No. 1: EMQQ Emerging Markets Internet & Ecommerce (EMQQ | B-48)

As amazing as emerging market funds like VWO, EEM or IEMG are, they do have some conspicuous holes, which EMQQ aims to fill. Investors who want to own all of the emerging markets cannot overlook EMQQ, which will give them access to Internet and e-commerce companies that are typically excluded from traditional indexes because they are listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Nominee No. 2: First Trust Dorsey Wright Focus 5 ETF (FV | C-23)

FV is a perfect example of how flexible ETFs are. This fund qualifies as a catchy riff on the “smart beta” trend, putting into one convenient, dynamic and tradable fund-of-funds wrapper Tom Dorsey’s popular system of technical analysis. It was the fastest-growing new ETF launched in 2014, pulling in $1.2 billion in inflows.

Nominee No. 3: iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (IUSB | D)

Broad-market bond funds that track the Barclays Aggregate overlook certain corners of the U.S. bond market: High-yield bonds are excluded from the Agg, for instance, as are many internationally issued bonds denominated in U.S. dollars. IUSB offers a broader take on the bond market, bringing extra yield to core bond exposure. It’s also cheap, charging just 0.15 percent a year in expenses.

Nominee No. 4: Market Vectors ChinaAMC China Bond ETF (CBON)

CBON offered U.S. investors access to Chinese debt issued in mainland China for the very first time. With the Chinese market rallying and bond opportunities looking thin elsewhere, this novel exposure is a welcome addition to the mix.

Nominee No. 5: PowerShares DB Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy (PDBC) This fund isn’t the first of its kind in the commodity space, but it is the cheapest, and that counts for a lot in a pocet of the ETF industry that remains relatively pricey. The fund allows investors to steer clear of cumbersome “K-1” tax forms reserved for futures while still enjoying futures-like exposure.

For the entire announcement from ETF.com, please click here.

Steven Wallman’s Holistic Approach to Trading

MarketMuse update courtesy of ETF.com’s Cinthia Murphy

Steven Wallman was a commissioner with the SEC in the mid-1990s. An authority on securities markets and trading, today he leads an ETF-centered online brokerage, Folio Investing. Wallman is also keen on seeing the SEC start using a thoughtful “holistic” method to evaluate the worthiness of new ETFs as opposed to a more case-by-case approach.

That could have far-reaching effects on the availability of innovative nontransparent actively managed wrappers, Wallman told ETF.com in a recent interview. He held up Eaton Vance and Precidian’s different experiences at SEC in the past few years as each pursues distinct nontransparent active ETFs as examples of a need for a new approach.

ETF.com: Both Eaton Vance and Precidian are looking to launch nontransparent exchange-traded products. They are different structures, but why do you think the SEC approved one and not the other? Is it all centered on their tradability?

Steven Wallman: The Eaton Vance one that has been approved, from what I’ve read, allows people to sort of bid off of the indicated NAV that will be changing on a 15-minute basis during the day. And then you would be bidding a basis point up or down off of that, depending on what you think the market and the securities are doing.

It does have an intraday element to it. Precidian’s was designed more as sort of the equivalent of a nontransparent but actively managed ETF that would allow for intraday trading. But the question is, allow it for what, on what basis? How do you make a decision?

What is the SEC is trying to protect against? What is it that it’s trying to permit? And what actually makes the most sense for it to be able to do? The lack of a holistic, clear outline with a proposal for how they would be addressing this is what seems to me to be missing. And in part, that’s why it’s taken so many years for this to develop and for ETFs, on the active side, to come to market.

It’s a little bit strange how the commission has addressed some of this. Its approach to these new products has been sort of piecemeal without the benefit of an overall theory guiding it.

ETF.com: Has this lack of a consistent approach been a big barrier to entry for active ETFs?

Wallman: It’s clearly been a significant barrier for active ETFs at the moment, and that is evidenced by the fact that there are several that have been attempted for many years and there still are very few of them.

With passive vehicles, that has been run to the ground a little bit more easily. By now, we have a more certain template and model for what would work at this point than for active.

On the other hand, remember that it took passive years to be able to come to market as well. At the beginning, there was no good mechanism that allowed it to slot in. You just had a framework that basically said, “Unless you fit into this one very particular kind of framework, nothing else is permitted unless the SEC provides a waiver.”

We’re in this sort of one-by-one-by-one analysis for all of these, and I think now—and it probably should have done so quite a while ago—the SEC ought to shift to a much more holistic view of what is the whole issue here and how do we resolve it, as opposed to, “This one looks OK; that one doesn’t look OK,” even if it’s hard for people to tell the difference.

ETF.com: Are these nontransparent structures more focused on issuer survival than on investor well-being, and maybe that is what the SEC is concerned about here? Are they just a result of mutual fund companies trying to find a spot in the ETF world?

Wallman: I don’t think so. A lot of the ETF providers at this point are mutual fund companies. Vanguard, for example, has a huge array of ETFs, and they’re certainly a well-known mutual fund company. You also have a number of providers of ETFs that are not mutual fund companies.

The proliferation of ETFs and the rise of them as a good vehicle for certain cohorts of investors to utilize is a good thing for the market. It is a new innovation—or it was a new innovation 25 years ago. It’s an increasingly used innovation.

The fact that there are providers of mutual funds who also want to come up with new vehicles is a good thing. So I don’t think any of this is about survival of the mutual fund industry.

For the complete interview from ETF.com, click here.

Euro Exposure? Eurozone Bond ETFs In Advance of ECB’s QE

MarketsMuse.com update courtesy of extract from Jan 6 ETF.com article by Dennis Hudacheck, with a look at Eurobond ETFs $HEDJ,$DBEU, $HEZU, $EZU, $DBEZ, $VGK, $FEZ, $DFE

All eyes are on the European Central Bank’s Jan. 22, 2015 meeting, as it’s no secret that ECB President Mario Draghi has been hinting at a large-scale quantitative easing program for some time.

There’s no guarantee the ECB will actually implement any such program in January, but the consensus seems to be that there will be some type of big announcement on that front sometime in the first quarter of 2015.

At the same time, the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to begin raising rates in mid-2015. This opposing force between the world’s two largest central banks has strategists calling for a currency-hedged strategy to capitalize on a rising-equity/falling-euro scenario in Europe.

An Equity ETF Designed For A Weakening Euro For currency-hedged options, the $5.6 billion WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (HEDJ | B-47) is by far the leading ETF in the space.

Despite its “Europe” name, HEDJ focuses exclusively on eurozone securities. That means that for better or worse, it excludes the U.K., Switzerland and Sweden, which account for roughly 50 percent of Europe’s equity market capitalization, combined.

More importantly, it carries a significant exporter bias, attempting to capitalize on a weakening-euro scenario. The dividend-weighted ETF does this by screening out any company that gets more than 50 percent of its revenues from within Europe.

This makes HEDJ geared toward investors with a strong bearish view on the euro. Naturally, the fund favors consumer sectors over financials compared with vanilla, cap-weighted European indexes (MSCI Europe IMI Index).

This now-blockbuster fund tracks its index well and trades more than $80 million a day at 3 basis point spreads, keeping overall trading costs very low.

‘Neutral’ Currency-Hedged Products Contrary to popular thinking, investors interested in currency-hedged Europe ETFs don’t necessarily have to be bearish on the euro. They might have a neutral view, and simply prefer a purer equity exposure by taking any currency fluctuations out of the equation.The Deutsche X-trackers MSCI Europe Hedged Equity ETF (DBEU | B-66) is also a leading ETF in the space, and takes a broader approach, including all of developed Europe, beyond the eurozone.

It tracks a cap-weighted index and neutralizes exposure to the euro, the British pound, the Swiss franc and a few other European currencies against the dollar. DBEU has more than $710 million in assets and trades with robust liquidity that’s sufficient for small and large investors alike.

For a neutral currency take on the eurozone, rising in popularity is the iShares Currency Hedged MSCI EMU ETF (HEZU), which literally holds the $7.5 billion iShares MSCI EMU ETF (EZU | A-63) with a forward contract overlay to neutralize euro exposure.

For the entire analysis from ETF.com, please click here

ETF Industry’s 1st Deal for 2015: Nasdaq Acquires ETF firm Dorsey Wright

MarketsMuse update courtesy of ETF.com’s Ollie Ludwig—

Nasdaq, the stock exchange company that’s also pushing deep into the world of indexing, significantly added to its index-provider profile by agreeing to acquire the technical analysis and ETF firm Dorsey Wright & Associates for $225 million in debt and cash on hand.

The transaction, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015, will make Nasdaq one of the biggest providers of “smart beta” indexes, Nasdaq and Dorsey Wright said today in a press release. The combined entity will bring together the 17 ETFs Dorsey Wright has its name on as well as Nasdaq’s 69 smart-beta ETFs focused mainly on dividend and income strategies.

Nasdaq Global Indexes will become one of the largest providers of smart-beta indexes, with nearly $45 billion in assets benchmarked to such benchmarks. A total of more than $105 billion is benchmarked to all Nasdaq indexes, the companies said.

The announcement of the transaction comes at a time when the world of smart-beta ETFs is all the rage. Inflows last year into such strategies were estimated to be twice that of flows into ETFs in general, based on the most liberal definitions of what constitutes smart-beta ETFs.

“Smart beta represents one of the fastest growing sectors within the ETF market,” Tom Dorsey, president of Dorsey Wright, said in the press release. “This deal will allow us to grow significantly, while continuing to create products and strategies that meet the needs of our clients.”

For the entire story from ETF.com, please click here 

China Marts Open For Lunch & Dinner: ETFs Hot Menu Item; Fortune Cookie Reviews Say: “Sweet, Sour & Soggy”

chinesemenuA MarketsMuse special update, courtesy of compiling various columns from Bloomberg, ETF.com, Fortune and a special treat: this piece was sponsored by Mr. Chow’s! (see below)

After much fanfare, the “Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect” is officially connected and ostensibly, this will be the link between brokers, dealers, ETF Issuers and global investors seeking access to a menu of mainland China stocks and bonds, whose market value is more than $4.2tril (if anyone knows another acronym for ‘Trillion”, please email us or simply comment below!). Even if trade volumes during the first 2 days appeared soggy (which some attribute to aversion to MSG, not China stocks or ETFs), this is a story that, according to many experts, is a watershed moment.

Noted Neil Azous, principal of global macro strategy think tank, Rareview Macro LLC,  “This is a transformational event. Though the first day ‘scorecard’ indicates that retail/local investor support in Shanghai has proven successful out of the gate, institutional interest is still nascent, as evidenced by the big drop in Hang Seng share prices yesterday.” Added Azous, “Because the liberalization of markets is 1 of 4 key anchors to China’s long-term game plan, it is easy to expect that the opening of China markets to foreign investors might be incremental, but also integral to the evolution of the global financial marketplace.”

Below please find a collection of excerpts and ETF mentions that MarketsMuse has ‘cherry-picked’ from news outlets: Continue reading

SEC Flip-Flops on Non-Transparent ETFs; What’s Next? “NextShares!” ; Eaton Vance 18, BlackRock: 0

Neale Donald Walsch - Believing is SeeingA MarketsMuse Special column….

Within less than 2 weeks after the all-visionary SEC blocked NYSE Arca from listing non-transparent, actively managed ETFs developed by ETF Industry icon BlackRock Inc., as well as those designed by upstart Issuer Precidian Investments (see MM edition Oct 23), this past Thursday, the same almighty securities regulator over-ruled itself and approved a different set of similarly non-transparent and actively-managed ETFs concocted by Eaton Vance, a competing ETF powerhouse and multi-billion asset manager within the $2tril + exchanged-traded fund marketplace.

Why was BlackRock “boxed out from under the board”, yet Eaton Vance victorious in the eyes of the SEC, the agency that is presumably mandated to protect retail investors from fund managers who prefer not to disclose their so-called ‘secret strategy sauce’? Its a head-scratcher for sure, particularly when the SEC’s turn-down ruling against BlackRock included the following statement: Continue reading

International ETF Launches Lead Growth of Exchange-Traded Funds; A Chinese Menu

etfcomlogoBelow courtesy of extract from today’s ETF.com and their reporter Heather Bell.

Year-to-date through the end of July saw 118 fund launches versus 86 during the same time period last year. However, what’s notable about the increase in launches is the fact that it is driven almost entirely by international equity ETF. In the first seven months of 2014, 55 ETFs targeting that space made their debut versus a mere 25 international equity funds in the first seven months of last year. Among this year’s launches, there are some very clear themes in international equities.

At least 18 of those international equity ETFs could be considered smart-beta or factor-based funds, ranging from the Market Vectors International Quality ETF (QXUS) to the iShares MSCI Europe Minimum Volatility ETF (EUMV) to the JPMorgan Diversified Return Global Equity ETF (JPGE).

Currency Hedging In Vogue Continue reading