Monday, August 25th, 2014

ETF Deathwatch for August 2014: Largest Jump In 23 Months

By Ron Rowland
18:11 pm CDT

ETF Deathwatch membership rolls swelled by twenty-three products for August, the largest one-month jump since September 2012.  Thirty-one new names joined the list while only eight escaped.  With 325 products now on the list, consisting of 226 ETFs and 99 ETNs, the two-year downward trend in membership growth may have come to an end.

Sixteen (more than half) of the additions have prominent international characteristics, and three have a commodity orientation.  Despite the fact sponsors are tripping over themselves to bring out “smart beta” ETFs, and analysts numbly extol these products’ virtues, nine of this month’s additions fit that definition.  The count jumps to a dozen if you believe adding a currency hedge to a traditional beta fund gives it the smart beta designation.

When leveraged ETFs were introduced, many investors did not fully grasp the implications of the leverage being reset daily.  Sponsors were cognizant of the potential for these funds to implode if the underlying index moved far enough in a single day and therefore tended to limit most leveraged funds to 200% exposure.  As sponsors became more comfortable with the mechanics of hedging their fund against a total loss, 300% funds arrived on the scene.

With long-term investors avoiding leveraged products, and highly active traders preferring the convenience and power of 300% exposure, there has been a noticeable migration from 2x to 3x trading products.  This also shows up in the ETF Deathwatch composition, with the ranks of 2x products growing significantly faster than 3x products.  For August, 54 of the names on the list have +/- 200% exposure, while only 19 have +/- 300% exposure. Granted, there are more 2x than 3x products (135 versus 84), but even on a percentage basis, ETF Deathwatch membership is skewed toward 2x products (40% versus 23%).

The average age of products on the list slid from 44.2 to 43.9 months, and 88 are now more than five years in age.  The average asset size is $6.5 million, down from $6.8 million a month ago, and 59 have asset levels below $2 million.

Here is the Complete List of 325 Products on ETF Deathwatch for August 2014 compiled using the objective ETF Deathwatch Criteria.


The 31 ETPs added to ETF Deathwatch for August:

  1. ColumbiaSelect Large Cap Growth (RWG)
  2. Credit Suisse Commodity Benchmark ETN (CSCB)
  3. Deutsche X-trackers MSCI AW ex US Hedged Equity (DBAW)
  4. Deutsche X-trackers MSCI Mexico Hedged Equity (DBMX)
  5. Deutsche X-trackers MSCI South Korea Hedged Equity (DBKO)
  6. Direxion Daily FTSEEuropeBear 3x Shares (EURZ)
  7. EGShares TCW EM Intermediate Term Investment Grade Bond (IEMF)
  8. EGShares TCW EM Long Term Investment Grade Bond (LEMF)
  9. EGShares TCW EM Short Term Investment Grade Bond (SEMF)
  11. First Trust High Income (FTHI)
  12. First Trust Low Beta (FTLB)
  13. First Trust NASDAQ Rising Dividend Achievers (RDVY)
  14. Global X Junior Miners (JUNR)
  15. iShares Industrial/Office Real Estate Capped (FNIO)
  16. iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Latin America (EEML)
  17. iShares Retail Real Estate Capped (RTL)
  18. Market Vectors MSCI Emerging Markets Quality (QEM)
  19. Market Vectors MSCI Emerging Markets Quality Dividend (QDEM)
  20. Market Vectors MSCI International Quality (QXUS)
  21. Market Vectors MSCI International Quality Dividend (QDXU)
  22. PowerShares DB German Bund Futures ETN (BUNL)
  23. PowerShares KBW Property & Casualty Insurance (KBWP)
  24. PowerShares NYSE Century Portfolio (NYCC)
  25. ProShares Ultra MSCIBrazilCapped (UBR)
  26. ProShares Ultra Russell2000 Growth (UKK)
  27. RBSChinaTrendpilot ETN (TCHI)
  28. SPDR MFS Systematic Core Equity ETF (SYE)
  29. SPDR MFS Systematic Growth Equity ETF (SYG)
  30. SPDR MFS Systematic Value Equity ETF (SYV)
  31. SPDR S&P International Consumer Discretionary (IPD)

The 8 ETPs removed from ETF Deathwatch due to improved health:

  1. AdvisorShares Madrona Domestic (FWDD)
  2. AdvisorShares Madrona Global Bond (FWDB)
  3. First Trust International Multi-Asset Diversified Income (YDIV)
  4. Guggenheim MSCI Emerging Markets Equal Weight (EWEM)
  5. iShares MSCI Colombia Capped (ICOL)
  6. iShares MSCI India Small-Cap (SMIN)
  7. iShares Target Date 2050 (TZY)


ETPs removed from ETF Deathwatch due to delisting:


ETF Deathwatch Archives

Disclosure covering writer, editor, and publisher:  No positions in any of the securities mentionedNo positions in any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.  No income, revenue, or other compensation (either directly or indirectly) received from, or on behalf of, any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.

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Friday, August 22nd, 2014

ALPS Goldman Sachs ETFs to Close

By Ron Rowland
8:06 am CDT

ALPS announced plans to close and liquidate its four ETFs in the ALPS | Goldman Sachs Index Series.  Shareholders need to be aware that ALPS has already commenced liquidating portfolio positions, and therefore the funds are no longer tracking their respective indexes.  Wednesday, August 27, 2014 will be the last day of trading for the affected funds, with final liquidation the following day.

The four ETFs facing closure are:

  • ALPS|GS Momentum Builder Multi-Asset Index ETF (GSMA)
  • ALPS|GS Momentum Builder Growth Equities and U.S. Treasuries Index ETF (GSGO)
  • ALPS|GS Momentum Builder Asia ex-Japan Equities and U.S. Treasuries Index ETF (GSAX)
  • ALPS|GS Risk-Adjusted Return US Large Cap Index ETF (GSRA)

ALPS launched these ETFs 20 months ago in December 2012, and they have been consistent members of ETF Deathwatch.  At the end of July, the funds had combined assets of less than $11 million, which is not much more than the original seed money.  Apparently, Goldman Sachs didn’t place any of its clients’ assets in the funds.

Disclosure covering writer, editor, and publisher:  No positions in any of the securities mentioned.  No positions in any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.  No income, revenue, or other compensation (either directly or indirectly) received from, or on behalf of, any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.

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Monday, August 18th, 2014

Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) Finally Admits Its 8% Expense Ratio

By Ron Rowland
17:16 pm CDT

Warning:  The SEC Has Determined an 8% Expense Ratio is Hazardous to Your Wealth.

Unfortunately, the SEC has not followed the example of the Surgeon General and does not require such warning labels on ETFs and mutual funds.  The Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) was the first ETF structured as a C-corporation, making it the first ETF to incur income tax liabilities.  For about two years, AMLP claimed the income tax liability was unknown and therefore made the bold assumption it was zero percent.

However, AMLP knew exactly what its income tax liability was every single day, and it made daily adjustments to its net asset value to reflect that liability.  The firm prided itself for “unlocking the secret” of holding MLPs inside of an ETF.  Its secret is to take money from shareholders to pay its corporate taxes.  As of last Friday, its unpaid tax liabilities totaled more than $1 billion – $1,241,869,274.52 to be exact.  This is money that has been taken away from shareholders to pay the fund’s expenses, making it a very real part of its expense ratio.

AMLP has been very slow to reveal its true expense ratio.  From its inception on August 25, 2010 through April 18, 2012 it clung tightly to the notion that investors were only paying 0.85% per year.  The following day, it filed paperwork with the SEC saying its expense ratio was 1.40%.  A few days later (4/22/12), I published my analysis showing that AMLP had an actual expense ratio of 8.5%.

Two months later, AMLP raised its stated expense ratio to 4.86% and the following March revised it downward slightly to 4.85%.  In May of last year, I updated my analysis, showing once again the actual expense ratio shareholders were incurring was greater than 8.4%.  Meanwhile, the SEC let AMLP get away with this gross understatement of expenses.

Earlier this year, AMLP finally got around to filing an amendment to its prospectus admitting a total expense ratio of 8.56%.  Investors may be inclined to believe this is the “new” expense ratio going forward.  However, an analysis of the performance data on AMLP’s website shows this is the expense ratio investors have incurred since the fund’s inception four years ago this month.

AMLP is designed to track the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index minus expenses.  It is simple mathematical calculation to subtract AMLP’s annual total return of 12.9% (as of 6/30/14) from its benchmark’s return of 20.8% to see that shareholders have incurred annual expenses around 8%.  This starts to add up after nearly four years, with AMLP returning 47.7% less than its index on a cumulative basis.

AMLP shareholders now need to prepare for another tax surprise.  Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP) is the fund’s largest holding at more than 11% of assets, and El Paso Pipeline Partners (EPB) takes up another 3%.  Both of these MLPs have Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI) as their general partner, and KMI has announced plans to forgo the MLP structure on these two entities and absorb them into a C-corporation structure.  This will be a taxable event to shareholders of each MLP.  AMLP is a shareholder of both, and 14% of its portfolio will be taken away by the KMI transaction.  AMLP will of course pass these additional tax liabilities on to its shareholders, which has a high probability of increasing the expense ratio even further.

Disclosure covering writer, editor, and publisher:  No positions in any of the securities, companies, or ETF sponsors mentioned.  No income, revenue, or other compensation (either directly or indirectly) received from, or on behalf of, any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.

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Sunday, August 17th, 2014

ETF Stats for July 2014 – Four New Players Join The Game

By Ron Rowland
9:30 am CDT

Sponsors launched fourteen ETFs and three ETNs in July, bringing the new introduction count to 118 so far this year.  Closure activity has been minimal, with no closures in July and just 24 for the year-to-date period.  The seventeen product introductions put the month-end listing count at 1,630 (consisting of 1,422 ETFs and 208 ETNs).  Three of the new funds are actively managed ETFs, bringing their count to 92.  Product counts aren’t the only thing increasing, as four new firms joined the ranks of sponsors and issuers.

Asset levels fell 1.4% yet remain firmly above $1.8 trillion.  Only 39 ETFs can boast assets above $10 billion, which is three fewer than last month.  Products above $1 billion slipped also, declining from 241 to 237.  The $100 million and above category was the beneficiary of these declines, as its ranks grew from 759 to 762.  On the bleak side, 344 products (21% of the population) can’t even muster $10 million in assets, which could swell the ranks of ETF Deathwatch in the coming months.

Trading activity picked up 13.9% in July after two months of abnormally low turnover.  A total of $1.2 trillion worth of ETPs changed hands during the month, with the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) single-handedly accounting for 29.9% of it.  Including SPY, only four ETFs managed to average more than $1 billion in daily trading, which was the same as June.  Products averaging more than $100 million a day in trading increased from 73 to 76, while those averaging more than $10 million declined from 268 to 262.

The July launch list also contains four sponsor and issuer newcomers.  Compass joined the fray with three new ETFs, Calamos and Sprott both rolled out their first ETFs, and the Royal Bank of Canada issued its first US-listed ETN.  The ETF industry has evolved well past the “build it they will come” era.  It will be interesting to see if these new arrivals have enough product differentiation and marketing clout to survive in a crowded field.

July 2014 Month EndETFsETNsTotal
Currently Listed U.S.1,4222081,630
Listed as of 12/31/20131,3322041,536
New Introductions for Month14317
Delistings/Closures for Month000
Net Change for Month+14+3+17
New Introductions 6 Months84993
New Introductions YTD1099118
Delistings/Closures YTD19524
Net Change YTD+90+4+94
Actively-Managed Listings92 (+3) n/a92 (+3)
Assets Under Mgmt ($ billion)$1,814$27.0$1,841
% Change in Assets for Month-1.4%-2.9%-1.4%
Qty AUM > $10 Billion39039
Qty AUM > $1 Billion2316237
Qty AUM > $100 Million72339762
% with AUM > $100 Million50.8%18.8%46.8%
Monthly $ Volume ($ billion)$1,211$35.3$1,246
% Change in Monthly $ Volume+13.8%+16.5%+13.9%
Avg Daily $ Volume > $1 Billion404
Avg Daily $ Volume > $100 Million74276
Avg Daily $ Volume > $10 Million2539262
Data sources:  Daily prices and volume of individual ETPs from Norgate Premium Data.  Fund counts and all other information compiled by Invest With An Edge.

New products launched in July (sorted by launch date):

  1. Compass EMP U.S. EQ Income 100 Enhanced Volatility Weighted Index ETF (CDC), launched 7/2/14, was introduced by a new ETF player, Compass Efficient Model Portfolios, LLC.  The ETF will invest in 100 high-yielding, large-cap U.S. equities and has the ability to hedge by taking part of the portfolio to cash.  If the index has an 8% decline, the fund will liquidate 75% of its holdings.  The fund will be reinvested in full if it recoups the loss or in 25% increments each time it loses an additional 8%.  Dividends will be paid quarterly with a yield of 2.8% when fully invested.  In the current allocation, the Utilities sector accounts for nearly 25% of the fund.  The expense ratio will be capped at 0.68% through 10/31/15 (CDC overview).
  2. Compass EMP U.S. 500 Volatility Weighted Index ETF (CFA), launched 7/2/14, will invest in up to 500 U.S. equities and will always be fully invested.  Stock selection begins with companies that have positive earnings for four consecutive quarters.  The largest 500 are selected by market capitalization and are then weighted by volatility based on standard deviation.  Its expense ratio is capped at 0.58% until 10/31/15 (CFA overview).
  3. Compass EMP U.S. 500 Enhanced Volatility Weighted Index ETF (CFO), launched 7/2/14, will invest in the 500 largest U.S. equities that have had positive earnings for four consecutive quarters, which are then weighted based on standard deviation.  The ETF has the ability to hedge by taking up to 75% of the portfolio to cash.  If the index sees a 10% decline, the fund will liquidate 75% of its holdings.  The fund will be reinvested in full if it recoups the loss or in 25% increments each time it loses an additional 10%.  The fund’s expense ratio will be capped at 0.68% through 10/31/15 (CFO overview).
  4. AdvisorShares Sunrise Global Multi-Strategy ETF (MULT), launched 7/9/14, is an actively managed fund-of-funds that will take advantage of both long and short sides of the market in global equity, bond, currency, and commodity markets when the manager sees what it believes are good opportunities based on price trends and other reoccurring patterns.  Its expense ratio will be capped at 1.89% for at least a year (MULT overview).
  5. Barclays Women in Leadership ETN (WIL), launched 7/10/14, is an exchange-traded note that seeks to provide exposure to U.S. companies with gender-diverse executive leadership and governance.  The underlying index will screen holdings on market capitalization, trading volume, and whether the firm has a female CEO and/or at least 25% female board members.  The ETN sports an expense ratio of 0.45%.  We were unable to locate a webpage for the ETN, which is often a red-flag.  Additional information can be found in the press release and the fact sheet on the SEC website.
  6. iShares Currency Hedged MSCI EMU ETF (HEZU), launched 7/10/14, is a fund-of-funds that will invest in large- and mid-cap stocks from developed countries in the European Monetary Union while mitigating exposure to fluctuations between the value of the Euro and the U.S. dollar.  This will be accomplished by holding iShares MSCI EMU ETF (EZU) and adding foreign currency forwards to hedge against unwanted currency risk.  The fund’s expense ratio will be capped at 0.51% through 12/31/15 (HEZU overview).
  7. iShares Global REIT ETF (REET), launched 7/10/14, seeks to track the investment results of an index composed of global real estate equities in developed and emerging markets.  About 60% of the portfolio is invested in U.S. REITs and 40% abroad.  Investors will pay 0.14% annually to own this ETF (REET overview).
  8. Calamos Focused Growth ETF (CFGE), launched 7/14/14, is an actively managed ETF focusing on large-cap growth equities.  Fundamentals taken into account include global presence, earnings growth, and return on capital.  Apple (AAPL) 8.7%, Google (GOOGL) 6.5%, and Facebook (FB) 6.3% are tops on the manager’s holdings list.  The fund’s expense ratio is 2.23% but will be capped at 0.90% until 3/31/16 (CFGE overview).
  9. Barclays Inverse U.S. Treasury Aggregate ETN (TAPR), launched 7/15/14, is an exchange traded note designed to provide a mechanism for investors to hedge against or benefit from rising U.S. interest rates.  Despite its ticker symbol, the underlying index is not tied to Fed tapering operations, which are almost complete.  Instead, investor results will be based on the return of short positions in 2-year, 5-year, 10-year, long-bond and ultra-long U.S. Treasury futures contracts.  The ETN’s expense ratio is 0.43%, and it adds in an ‘index rolling cost’ of 0.32%.  As with the other Barclays ETN launched in July, no information can be found on Barclay‘s website, but additional information can be found in the TAPR press release and the fact sheet filed on the SEC website.
  10. Sprott Gold Miners ETF (SGDM), launched 7/15/14, seeks to outperform the broad gold and silver mining industry by selecting stocks with a high beta relative to the spot price of gold.  The top 25 stocks are selected and then weighted by quarterly revenue growth and long-term debt to equity.  Despite the name, silver companies are also included for consideration.  Canadian stocks represent about 75% of the portfolio.  This is the first Sprott ETF, as previous U.S. listings were closed-end funds, and it is distributed/sponsored by ALPS.  The fund sports a 0.57% expense ratio (SGDM overview).
  11. First Trust Dorsey Wright International Focus 5 ETF (IFV), launched 7/23/14, is a fund-of-funds that will invest in five of the available First Trust international ETFs.  The eligible funds are ranked based on their price momentum, and the five top-ranked funds are included.  The current First Trust funds held are Switzerland AlphaDEX (FSZ), Canada AlphaDEX (FCAN), Germany AlphaDEX Fund (FGM), United Kingdom AlphaDEX (FKU), and Emerging Markets Small Cap AlphaDEX (FEMS).  IFV has a 1.10% expense ratio (IFV overview).
  12. Market Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (CNXT), launched 7/24/14, will provide exposure to the 100 largest and most liquid A-share stocks trading on the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Board and the ChiNext Board of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.  The Technology and Consumer Discretionary sectors make up nearly 50% of the fund.  Investors will pay 0.68% per year to own this ETF (CNXT overview).
  13. Direxion Daily 7-10 Year Treasury Bull 2x Shares (SYTL), launched 7/29/14, is a leveraged fund aiming to produce 200% of the daily performance of the 7 to 10 year maturity range of the U.S. Treasury bond market.  The fund’s expense ratio will be capped at 0.60% until 9/1/15 (SYTL overview).
  14. Direxion Daily Mid Cap Bull 2x Shares (MDLL), launched 7/29/14, is a leveraged fund aiming to produce 200% of the daily performance of the S&P Mid Cap 400 Index covering the mid-cap segment of the U.S. equity universe.  The fund’s expense ratio will be capped at 0.60% until 9/1/15 (MDLL overview).
  15. Direxion Daily Small Cap Bull 2x Shares (SMLL), launched 7/29/14, is a leveraged fund aiming to produce 200% of the daily performance of the 2000 small U.S. companies that make up the Russell 2000 Index.  The fund’s expense ratio will be capped at 0.60% until 9/1/15 (SMLL overview).
  16. RBC Yorkville MLP Distribution Growth Leaders Liquid PR Index ETN (YGRO), launched 7/29/14, is an exchange traded note that will follow a newly created Yorkville index “designed to track the performance of 25 MLPs with high quality distribution growth and liquidity profiles”.  Unfortunately, that is about all we can give you since the issuer, the Royal Bank of Canada, has not provided any information online.  The ETN has an expense ratio of 0.90% (YGRO SEC filing).
  17. AdvisorShares Athena High Dividend ETF (DIVI), launched 7/30/14, is an actively managed ETF that selects among stocks which are held in top relative weight positions in other active investment managers’ portfolios.  The ETF seems to have a split personality.  The official objective is “long-term capital appreciation”.  Yet, when the fund describes where it fits in an investor’s plan, the claim is that it has “an emphasis on generating yield for fund holders through high dividends.”  The estimated yield is not provided, but dividends are expected to be paid quarterly.  The total expense ratio is listed at 1.42%, but it will not exceed 0.99% for at least a year (DIVI overview).

Product closures/delistings in July:


Product changes in July:

  1. iShares Dow Jones-UBS Roll Select Commodity Index Trust (CMDT) changed its name to iShares Commodity Optimized Trust (CMDT) effective July 1.
  2. ETRACS DJ-UBS Commodity Index Total Return ETN (DJCI) became the ETRACS Bloomberg Commodity Index ETN (DJCI) effective July 1.
  3. ProShares UltraShort commodity ETFs changed their underlying indexes from DJ-UBS to Bloomberg.  Fund names were also changed to reflect the new indexes effective July 1.  Tickers of the affected funds include CMD, UCD, BOIL, KOLD, UCO, and SCO.
  4. iShares changed the tickers on its five target maturity AMT-Free Muni Bond ETFs effective July 7.  MUAD was changed to IBMD, MUAE to IBME, MUAF to IBMF, MUAG to IBMG, and MUAH to IBMH.
  5. iShares changed the names of the 10 ETFs under its iSharesBond brand effective July 7 by replacing the word “iSharesBond” with “iShares iBonds”.
  6. Effective July 8, PowerShares changed the underlying index and replaced “insured” with “AMT-Free” in the name of three municipal bond ETFs.  The new names are PowerShares National AMT-Free Municipal Bond Portfolio (PZA), PowerShares New York AMT-Free Municipal Bond Portfolio (PZT), and PowerShares California AMT-Free Municipal Bond Portfolio (PWZ).
  7. Global X replaced the underlying index providers and changed the names of two ETFs.  Global X FTSE Norway 30 ETF (NORW) became Global X MSCI Norway ETF (NORW) and Global X FTSE Colombia 20 ETF (GXG) became Global X MSCI Colombia ETF (GXG) effective July 16.
  8. AdvisorShares Cambria Global Tactical Allocation (GTAA) underwent an extreme-makeover effective July 28, becoming the AdvisorShares Morgan Creek Tactical ETF (GTAA).
  9. iShares changed the “brand” of five AMT-Free Muni ETFs to “iShares iBonds” effective July 31.

Announced Product Changes for Coming Months:

  1. Direxion S&P 500 DRRC Index Volatility Response Shares (VSPY) wiil change its underlying index and become Direxion S&P 500 Volatility Response Shares (VSPY) effective August 1.
  2. KraneShares CSI China Five Year Plan ETF (KFYP) will become KraneShares CSI New China ETF (KFYP) effective August 1.
  3. Deutsche Bank will change the brand on its 22 US-listed ETFs from “db X-trackers” to “Deutsche X-trackers” effective August 11.
  4. Fidelity is placing five additional iShares ETFs (IUSV, IUSG, HDV, DGRO, and IEUR) on its $0 commission online trading list effective August 13.  This brings the count to 81 commission-free ETFs at Fidelity (70 iShares and 11 Fidelity).
  5. Six silver ETFs from various sponsors will begin using the new “London Silver Price” as a benchmark effective August 15.  Affected funds are ETFS Physical Precious Metals Basket Shares (GLTR), ETFS Physical Silver Shares (SIVR), ETFS Physical White Metals Basket Shares (WITE), iShares Silver Trust (SLV), ProShares Ultra Silver (AGQ), and ProShares UltraShort Silver (ZSL).
  6. iShares 2014 AMT-Free Muni Bond ETF (MUAC) is maturing and will have its last day of trading August 15.
  7. Global X will change the index provider to MSCI on three international ETFs effective August 15.  The new names are Global X MSCI Argentina ETF (ARGT), Global X MSCI Nigeria ETF (NGE), and Global X MSCI Southeast Asia ETF (ASEA).

Previous monthly ETF statistics reports are available here.

Disclosure covering writer, editor, publisher, and affiliates: No positions in any of the securities mentioned.  No positions in any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.  No income, revenue, or other compensation (either directly or indirectly) received from, or on behalf of, any of the companies or ETF sponsors mentioned.

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