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April was a Good Month for ETF Inflows


After last year’s record pace, 2014 inflows to exchange traded products, including ETFs and ETNs, remain sluggish, but that trend started to reverse April.

Although the fourth month of the year is not officially over, ETF inflows returned to normal this month at $15.1 billion as of Tuesday, according to Nicholas Colas,chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, a global brokerage company based in New York.

Sounds good, but $15.1 billion in a single month would have been merely decent, if that, by 2013’s standards. Notably, April’s ETF inflows represent half of this year’s flows, according to CovergEx data. The tepid start to 2014 comes after ETFs gained $200 billion in new assets in each of the previous two years. [Record ETF Inflows in 2013]

As Colas notes, part of this year’s asset-gathering lethargy is attributable to massive outflows from some marquee products. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) is the top offender with outflows north of $17 billion, but all of the largest issuers have seen at least one of their big-name ETFs suffer some outflows.

For example, the PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) has lost $4.2 billion while the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) and the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) , the two largest emerging markets ETFs by assets, have suffered combined outflows of nearly $6.7 billion this year. To be fair to emerging markets ETFs, there is evidence that investors have recently been returning to those products. [Emerging Markets Bringing in New Assets]

“There really haven’t been many blockbuster products receiving large scale inflows to offset these redemptions.  The average of the top five ETFs in terms of 2014 inflows is just $2.2 billion year to date,” said Colas.

Top asset gathers this year include the Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK) , the iShares MSCI EMU ETF (EZU) and the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) , which is the leading sector ETF in terms of 2014 inflows. [Energy ETFs Dominate Sector Flows]

Some bond ETFs have been prodigious asset gatherers as well, including the PowerShares Senior Loan Portfolio (BKLN) . BKLN has brought in $912.4 million through April 29, according to PowerShares data.

“Global sovereign debt is no longer the odd man out, as it has been off and on since the Financial Crisis.  Year to date inflows total $3.8 billion, with $2.0 billion in the last month alone,” said Colas.

The iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (EMB) and the PowerShares Emerging Markets Sovereign Debt Portfolio (PCY) have seen April inflows of $553.7 million and $101 million, respectively, according to ETF.com data.

PowerShares Senior Loan Portfolio



ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post. Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of SPY, QQQ, EEM and EMB.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.