Weekly ETF Fund Flows
Weekly ETF Fund Flows: TLT’s Not Dead Yet
April 13, 2012
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The iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond Fund (NYSEArca: TLT) was the most popular ETF in the past week, a clear sign investors are wagering that last Friday’s disappointing March jobs report might end up pulling the Federal Reserve back into the bond market again to come to the economy’s rescue.
Investors plowed $405.5 million into TLT in the five trading days ended yesterday. Those flows pretty much confirm a shift in sentiment since the end of March. Indeed, TLT was among the more heavily shorted ETFs last month. The number of TLT shares being shorted shot up by 28 percent in March, when markets were warming to the idea that rising stocks throughout the first quarter might be signaling the beginning of a new sustainable cycle of economic growth. A week in financial markets can seem like a long time.
After the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the U.S. economy created just 120,000 jobs last month, investors began thinking the Fed might restart some version of its bond-buying program called quantitative easing that’s designed to keep rates low to encourage borrowing in the economy. While Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke remains circumspect on the subject, some of his deputies have been making definite, if also less than explicit, gestures that the economy isn’t out of the woods yet after the credit-led crash of 2008-2009.
Two other bond funds made it onto IndexUniverse’s “Top 10 Creations” list—the SPDR Barclays Capital Short Term Corporate Bond ETF (NYSEArca: SCPB) and the iShares Barclays 1-3 Year Treasury Bond Fund (NYSEArca: SHY), which pulled in $246.2 million and $168.7 million, respectively. Those creations in SCPB and SHY were probably more reflective of flight-to-safety buying on the short end of the bond market, as opposed to those in TLT, which reflect more of “inflation’s under control” and “the Fed’s going to keep long term yields pinned down” sentiments.
To that extent, some of the best-performing exchange-traded products in the past five trading days have been volatility related. Those securities are the quintessential tactical trading tools, rising sharply when equities are in full retreat, but generally performing horribly over the longer term.
The complexly named C-Tracks Exchange-Traded Notes on the Citi Volatility ETN (NYSEArca: CVOL) returned almost 9 percent in the past week, and the biggest VIX-related ETP on the market, the $1.57 billion iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEArca: VXX), rose 4.74 percent in the past few days.
Flows Out Of SPY, Gas Falls Out Of Bed
Not surprisingly, the least popular exchange-traded fund in the past five days was the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY), which bled $2.52 billion in assets between last Friday and yesterday.
SPY’s so big, at more than $101 billion, that it can seem like it’s the whole ETF equities universe.
Indeed, total outflows out of U.S.-focused equities totaled $5.55 billion.
Outflows from international equities totaled $545.8 million, with $550.4 million of that coming from the huge $38.55 billion iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (NYSEArca: EEM).
Among the worst-performing exchange-traded products last week were those focused on natural gas, as the commodity continued its steady decline of the past few years. It fell below $2 per million cubic feet this week, amid increases in production that are overwhelming demand, particularly given the relatively mild U.S. winter that just ended.
The iPath Dow Jones-UBS Natural Gas Total Return ETN (NYSEArca: GAZ) fell more than 11 percent in the past week, while the United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSEArca: UNG), an ETF, lost about 7 percent.