Monthly ETF Fund Flows
July ETF Flows: Equities Shine In Turmoil
August 01, 2012
Investors poured some $16 billion into ETFs in July—three-quarters of it into U.S. equities—making the haul the second-highest monthly total since the $28 billion that flowed into ETFs in January. Last month’s flows, including the market’s rise, lifted total U.S.-listed ETF assets 2.6 percent to $1.209 trillion.
It’s no surprise that the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY), the world’s biggest exchange-traded fund, was last month’s most popular fund, raking in $2.9 billion and bringing its total assets to almost $108 billion. In sum, U.S. equities hauled in more than $12 billion, and international equities gathered $3.21 billion, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse.
The most conspicuous international fund on our “Top Gainers” list was the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO), which attracted $1.51 billion in fresh investment. VWO’s sponsor, Vanguard, pulled in $4.29 billion in new assets, slightly less than SPY’s sponsor, State Street Global Advisors. BlackRock's iShares, the world's biggest ETF sponsor, added $3.93 billion.
The large net inflows number is noteworthy considering all the volatility coursing through financial markets last month. The very survival of the eurozone as we know it is an open question. Stocks first sold off sharply—then rose at the end of the month—as Spain took center stage in the crisis. By the end of the month, the Dow Jones industrial average was somehow 1 percent higher, at 13,008.68.
The risk appetite was even evident when it came to investor choices in the fixed-income space. Junk bond ETFs like the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (NYSEArca: HYG) and the SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond Fund (NYSEArca: JNK) were among the month’s most popular funds.
In that same vein, international debt funds saw asset inflows nearly seven times greater than that going into domestic debt strategies in July. More than $1.5 billion—or 8 percent of total non-U.S. fixed-income ETF assets—made it into funds focused on foreign debt.
One of the most popular ETFs in that space was the iShares JP Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond Fund (NYSEArca: EMB), which gathered another $588 million to push its total assets under management above $5.25 billion.
Rounding out the top gainers list for the month was none other than Bill Gross' Pimco Total Return Bond ETF (NYSEArca: BOND). The ETF version of Gross’ flagship mutual fund ranked ninth among the month’s most popular ETFs, adding $555.3 million in new assets. BOND has gathered more than $2.3 billion in only five months, making it one of the fastest-growing ETFs ever.
Top Money Losers
BOND's success at attracting assets notwithstanding, fixed-income ETFs, particularly those that own U.S. Treasurys, were among the funds that suffered the biggest redemptions last month. Still, as an asset class, U.S. fixed income gathered $216 million in new money.
It seems the positive net flows into fixed income were more a reflection of investor appetite for risk-on junk bonds than a hunt for the perceived safety of Treasury bonds. HYG and JNK, the two biggest high-yield bond ETFs, together pulled in $1.59 billion.
The iShares Barclays 1-3 Year Treasury Bond Fund (NYSEArca: SHY) was the least popular ETF last month, with outflows totaling more than $1.62 billion. SHY ended July with $9.22 billion in total assets.
Other iShares Treasury funds tapping into various segments of the maturity curve, such as 3-7 Year Treasurys and 7-10 Year Treasurys, were also among July’s top losers.
Treasury bonds weren’t the only safe haven to be snubbed by investors embracing risk.
The SPDR Gold Shares (NYSE Arca: GLD), the market’s largest gold bullion fund and the second-largest ETF in the world, was the second-least-popular strategy with investors last month.
GLD bled nearly $1.4 billion in assets, and ended the month with $65.26 billion.
All told, investors took out more than $1.13 billion from commodities ETFs in July, an asset class that represents roughly 9 percent of total U.S. ETF assets today.