ETFs are the hottest thing to hit the investment markets in decades. Far more interesting than credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities, exchange traded funds allow investors to take positions in entire collections of companies, currencies, countries, hogs, wheat, semiconductors and more. Investors of all skill levels commit money to ETFs in collective amounts of over $1,000 billion, because they function just like stocks. Although the ETF market has exploded in size, that doesn't mean that along the way there haven't been some funds slow to catch on. (For more on how to add ETFs to your portfolio, check out 4 Ways To Use ETFs In Your Portfolio.)
TUTORIAL: Exchange-Traded Funds
With 78% of Americans identifying themselves as Christian, the Christian-based FaithShares funds sought to create a product that catered to investors who didn't want their money in companies that violated their Christian beliefs. There was the FaithShares Catholic Values Fund, Methodist Value Fund and Christian Values Fund, which invested in 100 stocks that upheld a certain Christian denomination's values. Between these three funds, not even $20 million of interest came in to the funds, which caused FaithShares to discontinue the offering.
This family of ETFs contains funds that track the numerous Morningstar indexes, and although there are other ETFs on the market with identical objectives, the FocusShares funds do it for the lowest management costs available; for those who have accounts through Scottrade, there are no commission costs. Although these funds have some great selling points, many of these funds trade less than 1,000 shares each day. With such lackluster interest, the graveyard may not be far away. (With low volume comes reduced liquidity. To learn more, see ETF Liquidity: Why It Matters.)
ETFS Asian Gold Trust
If gold is the go-to investment for both professionals and amateurs, why does the ETFS Asian Gold Trust ETF (NYSE:AGOL) only trade an average of 3,000 shares a day, with some days trading zero? This fund operates similarly to the more popular SPDR Gold Trust, but it stores the physical gold in Singapore.
Guggenheim ABC High Dividend ETF
The Guggenheim ABC High Dividend ETF (NYSE:ABCS) may not be for the everyday investor. This fund tracks the performance of the BNY Mellon ABC Index, which holds 30 securities, many in the form of ADRs, from Australia, Brazil and Canada. With an average of 4,700 shares traded daily, this ETF's existence may be short-lived.
Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF
The Global X FTSE Argentina 20 ETF (NYSE:ARGT) is another index ETF that seeks to track the performance of the FTSE Argentina 20 index, by investing 80% of its assets into stocks that comprise the index. Although it's currently the only ETF of its kind on the market, with an average volume of 5,500 shares and net assets of just under $3.5 million, investor interest hasn't picked up.
The Bottom Line
Low volume isn't an absolute predictor of their impending demise, but just like other products, without demand, the costs involved in running the fund will eventually lead it to the graveyard. Although some funds aren't taking off the way their creators had hoped, the demand for ETFs continues to grow. (For more on the positives and negatives of ETFs, check out Advantages And Disadvantages Of ETFs.)