Equity ETF Flows Hit $29B in September


U.S. equity-focused exchange traded funds were king in September.

Amid geopolitical concerns and continuing trade tensions, and a blustery Donald Trump, equity ETFs attracted over $29 billion in assets in September according to the latest US-Listed ETF Flash Flows report from State Street Global Advisors. Of that total, US-focused equity ETFs attracted over $28.6 billion or 98% of the inflows deposited into all equity ETFs.

Yep, that’s 98%.

Matthew Bartolini, SSGA

Overall, September’s $29 billion number follows the $20 billion in August, raising the year-to-date total to over $140 billion in assets. However, this figure pales compared to the fact that at this time last year, equity ETFs had amassed a staggering $223 billion in inflows.

Matthew Bartolini, Head of SPDR Americas Research at SSGA told Traders Magazine that the inflow pace quickened on equity bets during September.

“Like a player aggressively raising the pot when eyeing a jackpot, equity focused ETFs took in $29 billion last month,” Bartolini began. “While the notional value is eye-popping, on a relative basis these flows represent just 5% of start-of-year assets under management for equity funds. And while the pace may have quickened, it still remains behind last year’s torrid run. This slower pace is likely a function of a rocky start to the year for global equities and the uneven regional recovery since then, where only US stocks are noticeably positive on the year. After all, it’s hard to shoot the moon twice.”

Also, he added that the US is the only major region with noticeably positive equity returns for the year, outperforming Japan, the Eurozone, China, and all of emerging markets by 8.4%, 15.2%, 19.8%, and 18.6%, respectively. But US stocks might have gotten tired as developed ex-US equities, led by a rally in Japanese shares, outperformed the US in September for the first time in four months.

On the sector level, Health Care ETFs led the pack, attracting $2.5 billion during the month as investors sought defensive growth exposures. Following September’s GICS (global, international and currency) restructuring, investors deposited over $1.5 billion into Communication Services.  Materials and Energy were the month’s laggards, shedding $127 million and $160 million, respectively.

In fixed-income, ETFs backed by debt instrument attracted $6.4 billion in September – extending their streak to 38 consecutive months of inflows. Since beginning this streak in June 2015, fixed-income ETFs have increased their market share from 15.9% to 17.2% of total ETF industry assets.

“As a result of their strong run, fixed income ETFs have noticeably increased their market share,” Bartolini said. “They now represent 17.2% of industry assets compared to 15.9% when this ‘heater’ like stretch run of positive flows began back in June of 2015.”

Looking ahead, he concluded by saying that it is unlikely 2018 will be the year that this run of consecutive inflow months (fixed income) will be broken.

“Investor interest in fixed income exposures will likely persist for three reasons,” Bartolini said. “First, equity gains from a decade-long bull market will require ongoing rebalancing to bring portfolios back in line to standard asset allocation, such as a 60/40 equity/fixed income mix. Second, the full macro calendar will provide an undercurrent of demand for portfolio ballast, a trait bond exposures carry quite well. And last, income is still a need, and with rising short-term rates even ultra-short term exposures such as US 1- month Treasury Bills now yield more than stocks.”

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