By LIAM PLEVEN
Exchange-traded funds have lured many investors away from mutual funds by offering lower fees. But increasingly, some ETFs are also using fees to compete with other ETFs.
In a handful of high-profile cases, particularly in commodities and stocks, investors can choose between two ETFs that are virtually identical except for their fees. Gold bugs, for instance, can buy into a bar of bullion by holding shares in either SPDR Gold Shares GLD +3.88% or iShares Gold Trust IAU +3.94% . But the SPDR fund charges 0.4% of assets a year in fees, compared with the iShares fund’s 0.25%.
Disparities like that point to the rising importance of price as a distinguishing factor in what has become a crowded and confusing ETF marketplace for many individual investors. It isn’t clear yet how effective the tactic will be in the long run—there may be good reasons in some cases for investors to stick with or buy a higher-priced fund. But it seems to hold promise as a marketing tool.