Inflows to exchange traded funds (ETFs) listed in the U.S. are on a blistering pace this year. As of May 19, U.S.-listed ETFs had attracted $182 billion in new assets on a year-to-date basis, but in recent days, investors have been pulling money from some ETFs focusing on U.S. stocks. (For more, see also: 2017 ETF Inflows Are Staggering.)
“U.S. listed ETP net inflows were $1.4 billion last week as we saw assets rotate out of U.S. equity ETPs and into international equities and fixed income ETPs,” said Credit Suisse in a note out earlier this week. “ETPs tracking domestic U.S. equities had net redemptions totaling $7.5 billion with especially large outflows in small cap ETPs. From a sector standpoint, there were large outflows from Materials, Financials and Industrials.”
Exchange traded products (ETPs) include ETFs and the products known as exchange traded notes (ETNs). Many ETNs, like ETFs, are index-based products, but are unsecured, unsubordinated debt instruments of an issuing bank, which can potentially expose investors to credit risk associated with that bank.
For the week ended May 24, nine of the top 10 ETFs in terms of outflows were funds focusing on U.S. equities, led by the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM), the largest ETF tracking U.S. small-caps. Other outflows offenders over that stretch include the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), the world's largest ETF; and the iShares U.S. Real Estate ETF (IYR). During the May 18 – 24 period, IWM and SPY lost over $3.3 billion combined.
Over the same period, four of the top 10 asset-gathering ETFs were international equity funds, extending a theme that has been prevalent this year. With the U.S. bull market aging and stocks here looking richly valued, investors are scouring the globe for value opportunities, a search that is taking them to developed and emerging markets ETFs alike. (For more, see: Global Exposure Without Leaving Home.)
The Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA), one of the largest and least expensive ex-U.S. developed markets ETFs trading in the U.S., added nearly $369 million in new money during the May 18 – 24 period. The iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF (EZU) added $456 million over that period. Inflows to U.S.-listed Europe ETFs have been steady this year with European stocks trading at multi-year discounts relative to their U.S. peers.
“In contrast, international equity ETPs had inflows of $5.1 billion with the strongest buying (relative to existing assets) continuing to be in funds tracking European equity indices,” said Credit Suisse.
With two months of the second quarter nearly complete, seven of the top 10 asset-gathering ETFs in the U.S. are international equity funds compared to just two U.S.-focused equity ETFs. That group of seven includes EZU and VEA as well as two emerging markets ETFs.