As the market for exchange-traded funds matures, it’s coalescing around a few winners and leaving laggards behind, allowing ETF trends to more clearly reflect what’s going on in broader financial markets.
That’s the conclusion of a Wednesday research note from DataTrek Research Co-founder Nicholas Colas.
So far in 2020, 77 new ETFs have launched, but 123 have closed, Colas noted: “We’ve been actively covering the ETF industry since the Financial Crisis and cannot recall ever seeing the number of ETFs actually shrink.”
But it’s not the ETF universe that’s shrinking: funds have attracted $108 billion of new money in the year to date. Rather, market churn is designating clear winners and losers. Colas calls it “peak Darwin” for ETFs. Out of nearly 2,300 funds, just over a dozen are emerging as the heavyweights, and they’re mostly concentrated into three broad categories, as shown in the table below.
|US equities (47%, among 8 funds:)|
|Vanguard S&P 500 ETF
| iShares Core S&P 500 ETF
|Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF
|Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF
|Vanguard Growth ETF
|Invesco QQQ Trust
|Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund
|Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund
|Fixed income (25% of total, in 4 funds:)|
|SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF
|iShares Barclays Short Treasury Bond Fund
|iShares Barclays 1-3 Year Treasury Bond Fund
|iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF
|Commodities (18% in 3 funds)|
|SPDR Gold Trust
|iShares Gold Trust
|United States Oil Fund
“Investors are largely allocating capital to US large caps, short term Treasuries, investment grade corporates, gold,” Colas noted.
2020’s winners and losers in terms of returns also tell a story about how industry and the economy is changing.
The biggest winner so far, with a 36% return, is ProShares Long Online/Short Stores ETF
, a popular way to play the coronavirus-induced stay-at-home orders. The biggest loser, reflecting the global oil price war and glut, is the Invesco Dynamic Oil & Gas
fund, down more than 60%.