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Thin Trading Volume in ETFs Does Not Translate to Low Liquidity


Most investors have grown used to the habit of avoiding stocks with low trading volumes; however, this mindset should not be applied to exchange traded funds.

Typically, investors who execute orders on lightly traded stocks will see significant changes when buying or selling the stock, but this phenomena does not occur when trading with ETFs, writes Tom Lauricella for the Wall Street Journal.

First off, stocks, unlike ETFs, have a fixed number of outstanding shares. ETFs are also valued based on the price of all its underlying basket of securities. Moreover, because of the way ETFs are structured, authorized participants, or market makers, can create or redeem ETF shares to keep the ETF in line with the net asset value of the underlying basket of securities. [True Liquidity]

Consequently, when there is a sudden spike in interest for any given ETF, market makers can cushion the price impact by creating or redeeming ETF shares.

The real question potential ETF investors should ask is: how liquid are the underlying components, be it bonds, commodities, currencies or stocks?

“ETFs…are really a wrapper of some other investment,” Chris Hempstead, director of ETF execution services at WallachBeth Capital, said in the article. ETF trading volume and assets under management “are two of the more irrelevant metrics when it comes to defining [ETF] liquidity.”

For instance, the First Trust ISE Cloud Computing Index ETF (SKYY) has an average daily trading volume of 43,000 and $77 million in assets. Still, of its top 10 holdings, eight are actively traded stocks with average daily volumes upward of one million shares.

Looking at the ETF universe, investors are ignoring a potentially large number of lucrative investment strategies – only around 25% of all ETFs in the market trade with over 100,000 shares per day.

For more information on ETFs, visit our ETF 101 category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

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.