By Ron Rowland:
June brought a fourth consecutive month of below-average ETF and ETN introductions. The month's eleven launches were not necessarily boring, however. They include ETFs targeting high dividend payers without fear of sector concentration, Canadian oil sands, crossover bonds, MLPs without C-corporation tax drag, favorite stocks of hedge funds, and the most mysterious ETP ever listed. Without further adieu, here is the June lineup:
1) Global X Top Guru Holdings Index ETF (GURU - News), launched June 5, tries to aggregate the ideas and knowledge of hedge fund managers into a transparent, cost-efficient, accessible ETF. Index provider Structured Solutions uses a proprietary methodology to compile the highest-conviction equity ideas from a select pool of hedge funds. Selected stocks are equal-weighted and currently number 51. Top sector weightings include Technology 21.6%, Financials 17.7%, Industrials 15.7%, Energy 9.8%, and Materials 7.8%. The fund's expense ratio is 0.75% (GURU overview).
Opinion / Analysis: While GURU is billed as a hedge fund replication ETF, no hedging is involved. The underlying index is always 100% long – no cash and no short selling. The folks at AlphaStratus recently analyzed the hedge fund replication techniques used by both GURU and the AlphaClone Alternative Alpha ETF (ALFA) launched last month. They found many of the listed hedge funds are not equity focused, are short-biased, or file reports based on a roll up of many funds. The 13F filings used as source data are delayed by 45 to 135 days. In other words, the gurus on which the GURU strategy depends may no longer own the stocks by the time GURU and ALFA learn about them. I share these same concerns.
2) STREAM S&P Dynamic Roll Global Commodities Fund (BNPC - News), launched June 6, holds futures contracts on the commodities comprising the S&P GSCI Dynamic Roll Excess Return Index. The underlying index aims to reflect a global production-weighted portfolio of physical commodities that have active, liquid futures markets. BNPC uses a dynamic rolling strategy to maximize yield from rolling long futures contracts in backwardated markets and minimize roll loss from rolling long futures contracts in contangoed markets (BNPC overview).
Opinion / Analysis: The sponsor, French banking giant BNP Paribas, is a new player in the U.S. ETF space. STREAM stands for Strategic Enhanced Asset Management. The website currently lacks basic information, like expense ratios and asset pie charts. I found the 0.86% expense ratio buried on page 25 of the 156-page prospectus (.pdf). This product will issue K-1s, brings nothing new to the market (except an unfamiliar name), and will likely struggle to attract investor attention.
3) UBS AG FI Enhanced Big Cap Growth ETN (FBG), launched June 11, is an exchange traded note ("ETN") designed to provide 2x leveraged exposure to the Russell 1000 Growth Index Total Return, reduced by the index adjustment factor (3 month LIBOR plus 0.13% per annum). The securities have an early termination provision should the underlying index ever fall below 384.6970, which represents a 30% decline from the starting level. Rebalancing or "leverage reset" will occur if the underlying falls below 439.6538, which represents a 20% decline from the starting value.
Opinion / Analysis: This is the most mysterious ETP ever to achieve a U.S. listing. The product cannot be found on the UBS ETRACS website or any other UBS website as of this writing. The NYSE listing announcement (and now most stock quote websites) refers to it as the "Fisher Enhanced Big Cap ETN". However, the final prospectus supplement does not contain the word "Fisher." Since the notes track a Russell index with 2x leverage, I'm not sure what "value add" Fisher would bring. With a 0.13% tracking fee, it is the most aggressively priced ETN and leveraged ETP on the market. Despite the lack of information, trading is robust at an average of nearly 100,000 shares per day.
4) Sustainable North American Oil Sands ETF (SNDS - News), launched June 12, intends to track the performance of companies with operations in the North American oil sands consisting of oil exploration, production, refinement, marketing, storage, transportation, provision of equipment and/or provision of services. The underlying index can range from 25-40 equal-weighted holdings. Current country allocations are Canada 41.9%, U.S. 35.9%, China 9.3%, France 3.2%, U.K. 3.2%, Netherlands 3.2%, and Norway 3.2%. SNDS presently has 31 holdings, an expense ratio of 0.50%, and a 2.6% estimated yield (SNDS overview). SNDS is the third ETF to use Exchange Traded Concept's ("ETC") turnkey ETF program. ETC is the advisor of record, while fund management is handled by Index Management Solutions.
Opinion / Analysis: SNDS bills itself as the first pure play ETF with exposure to Canada's oil sands. However, many of its holdings are integrated energy companies such as Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), BP Amoco (BP), and ConocoPhillips (COP). The "pure play" claim is thus a stretch. The new ETF will face competition from Guggenheim Canadian Energy Income (ENY).
5) SPDR BofA Merrill Lynch Emerging Markets Corporate Bond ETF (EMCD - News), launched June 19, seeks to reflect the performance of U.S. dollar-denominated emerging markets corporate senior and secured debt publicly issued in the U.S. domestic and Eurobond markets. Country diversification within the underlying index includes Brazil 19.7%, Russia 15.2%, Mexico 11.0%, UAE 6.6%, South Korea 5.4%, and Hong Kong 5.4%. The fund has 115 holdings, an estimated yield of 5.1%, a 5.7 year modified adjusted duration, and a 0.30% expense ratio (EMCD overview).
Opinion / Analysis: Emerging market corporate debt, a non-existent ETF category just three months ago, is now getting crowded with five offerings. EMCD will compete with two other ETFs holding investment grade U.S. dollar-denominated debt. WisdomTree Emerging Markets Corporate Bond (EMCB), launched in March, is an actively managed ETF yielding 5.0% with an effective duration of 6.3 years and a 0.60% expense ratio. iShares Emerging Markets Corporate Bond (CEMB), launched in April, yields 4.0% with an effective duration of 5.4 years and a 0.60% expense ratio. I doubt all three will survive. Two other new funds target the below investment grade segment: iShares Emerging Markets High Yield Bond (EMHY) and Market Vectors Emerging Markets High Yield Bond ETF (HYEM).
6) SPDR BofA Merrill Lynch Crossover Corporate Bond ETF (XOVR - News), launched June 19, tries to capture the performance of BBB and BB corporate debt publicly issued in the U.S. "Crossover" corporate debt generally means corporate debt rated in the zone where investment grade and high yield debt meet. The fund has 81 holdings, an estimated yield of 5.7%, a 5.7 year modified adjusted duration, and a 0.30% expense ratio (XOVR overview).
Opinion / Analysis: XOVR is the second crossover corporate bond ETF to come to market in the past few months. The first in this category, iShares Baa-Ba Rated Corporate Bond (QLTB), was introduced in late April and yields 3.6% with an effective duration of 6.4 years and a 0.30% expense ratio. Based on the preliminary characteristics, I would likely prefer XOVR for its higher yield and lower duration.
7) United States Metals Index Fund (USMI - News), launched June 19, is an exchange-traded security following the SummerHaven Dynamic Metals Index Total Return. The underlying index intends to reflect diversified metals prices by investing in futures contracts. USMI will typically include exposure to ten metals. The largest current allocations are copper 17.4%, silver 16.4%, gold, 12.9%, aluminum 11.9%, and zinc 11.2%. USMI will have a management fee of 0.70% and will issue K-1s (USMI overview).
Opinion / Analysis: With the addition of USMI, sponsor United States Commodity Funds now has 12 products for sale. The SummerHaven indexing methodology is designed to overweight contracts displaying momentum and backwardation and underweight those in contango. There are now more than three dozen long non-leveraged metals funds listed for trading, but USMI is only the second to combine both industrial and precious metals. The other is the ELEMENTS Rogers ICI Metals ETN (RJZ).
8) Huntington EcoLogical Strategy ETF (HECO - News), launched June 20, is an actively managed ETF that targets the securities of ecologically-focused companies. The manager looks for companies that have positioned their business to respond to increased environmental legislation, cultural shifts towards environmentally conscious consumption, and capital investments in environmentally oriented projects.
The current 58 holdings include Hain Celestial Group (HAIN) 6.6%, Whole Foods Market (WFM) 5.7%, eBay (EBAY) 5.4%, Spectra Energy (SE) 3.7%, and Borg-Warner (BWA) 3.4%. The fund is managed by Brian Salerno and will cap expenses at 0.95% (HECO overview). A second fund, the Huntington US Equity Rotation Strategy ETF (HUSE), is included in the prospectus.
Opinion / Analysis: This is the first ETF offering from Huntington in a planned line-up called "Huntington Strategy Shares." The website contains little information other than current holdings. Data on sector allocations, country weightings, yield, capitalization segments, and other characteristics apparently remain as an exercise for the student – an exercise this particular student chooses not to perform.
9) First Trust North American Energy Infrastructure Fund (EMLP - News), launched June 21, is an actively managed ETF seeking total return. EMLP will normally invest at least 80% of its net assets in North American energy infrastructure securities. The portfolio can hold MLPs, MLP affiliates, Canadian income trusts and their successor companies, pipeline companies, utilities, and other companies that derive at least 50% of their revenues from the energy infrastructure industry.
Energy Income Partners LLC serves as the fund's sub-advisor and provides the daily portfolio management. Largest holdings include Enbridge Energy Management (EEQ) 7.7%, Kinder Morgan Management (KMR) 7.5%, TransCanada (TRP) 3.9%, The Williams Companies (WMB) 3.8%, and NextEra Energy (NEE) 3.5%. Current country weightings are not available. EMLP's expense ratio is 0.95% (EMLP overview).
Opinion / Analysis: While industry breakdown of this new ETF is not provided on the website, I'm willing to bet the MLP allocation is hovering just below 25%. This allows EMLP to maintain a Regulated Investment Company ("RIC") status and avoids the C-corporation structure used by MLP ETFs. The C-corporation structure has severe tax consequences that cause horrendous performance drag and climbing expense ratios. I believe shareholder revolts are only a matter of time. EMLP is the second ETF to reveal its intent to limit MLP exposure. The first was the Arrow Dow Jones Global Yield ETF (GYLD).
10) ProShares Short Euro (EUFX - News), launched June 27, seeks daily investment results corresponding to the inverse (-1x) daily performance of the U.S. dollar price of the euro, after a 0.95% annualized expense ratio (EUFX overview).
Opinion / Analysis: The marketing literature correctly describes EUFX as the first ETF offering non-leveraged inverse exposure to the euro. Both 2x and -2x leveraged exposure became available in November 2008 via ProShares Ultra Euro (ULE) and ProShares UltraShort Euro (EUO).
11) ALPS Sector Dividend Dogs ETF (SDOG - News), launched June 29, is an ETF applying the 'Dogs of the Dow Theory' on a sector-by-sector basis, using the S&P 500 as its starting universe. The strategy selects the five highest-yielding stocks in each of the ten GICs sectors. Those 50 stocks are equal weighted, which also results in an equal sector weighting. The underlying index has a current yield of 5.0%, versus 2.0% for the S&P 500. The fund's initial yield will be 4.6% after deducting the 0.40% expense ratio (SDOG overview).
Opinion / Analysis: Dividend strategies are all the rage with interest rates hovering near zero. The Dogs of the Dow Theory has been around for decades, and the benefits of equal weighting are gaining wider acceptance. SDOG combines these attractive ingredients into one ETF, and will likely become a benchmark among dividend ETFs. My only question is "What took so long?".
Disclosure covering writer, editor, and publisher: No positions in any of the securities mentioned. No positions in any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned. No income, revenue, or other compensation (either directly or indirectly) received from, or on behalf of, any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.