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ETFs Hunt for the Next Big Idea


Exchange traded fund providers could be feeling a bit fatigued as their creative juices dry up and new investment strategies are harder to come by.

So far this year, only 70 new ETFs have hit the market, down 44% from the 126 products launched in the same period in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Some believe that the slowdown is a sign that the market for ETFs, which include over 1,400 different fund products with over $1.4 trillion in assets, has gotten saturated and fund providers are struggling to engineer new niche strategies.

“It’s getting harder to find unique ideas that have not been done before,” Lorraine Wang, global head of ETF products and research for Invesco PowerShares, said in the article.

ETF providers already cover most global benchmarks. Now, more fund sponsors are turning to specialized market offerings. For instance, in 2013, some new ETFs track Nigerian stocks, use “forensic accounting” to avoid stocks with financial problems and give leveraged exposure to the Brazil.

“We’ve seen issuers sort of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks,” Paul Baiocchi, senior ETF specialist at IndexUniverse, said. “The reality is that, as more ETFs come to market, there are less and less ways to repackage strategies.”

Not every idea is a clear cut winner. Year-to-date, 42 ETFs have shut down, up from 17 for the same period year-over-year. [The Number of ETF Closures is Rising]

Nevertheless, fund industry experts believe the deceleration is inevitable, arguing that a slowdown shows that providers have meet the trader’s needs for cheap and efficient investment tools.

“The ETF market has reached a maturation point,” strategist Victor Lin at Credit Suisse Group AG, said in the article.

Others, though, think that the ETF industry can continue to expand through actively managed, bond and “alternative” stock offerings.

“We think of this as a multichapter novel,” Jacques Perold, president of Fidelity Investments’ Fidelity Management & Research, said in the article. “The first chapter is done. We think the next is going to be active.”

For more information on the ETF industry, visit our current affairs category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.