ETF / Finance

ASK A FINANCIAL PLANNER: 'What's the difference between an ETF and index fund?'

May 1 12:30pm Money Game: ETFs
Certified financial planner Sophia Bera answers: What's the difference between an ETF and index fund, and which is better? Great question. Before I delve into the specifics, let me give a little context as to why both can be good additions to an investment portfolio. Two of the things that can help your investments weather a tough economy are time and diversification. Holding onto investments for years can mitigate the effect a volatile market has on your money. While the market may rise and fall, over a long time, you might still have positive average returns. Diversification is really important, too. If you rely too heavily on one investment and that investment’s share price drops, you’re out a lot of money. But if you spread your investing dollars across lots of companies and industries, one company’s share price drop won’t affect your portfolio’s overall value too much. Still with me? Good! Here’s how this pertains to both index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). One thing they offer investors is instant diversification with little effort and expense. Every share of a fund you buy nets you shares (or fractional shares) in hundreds of companies at once. But they are different in a few ways. Index funds These are portfolios built to mimic the performance of market indexes like the S&P 500. You buy shares of an index fund, and the value of your shares rise and fall with the value of that index. This makes them different from mutual funds, which are managed and rebalanced by fund managers (and their work costs money, leading to higher fees you pay to invest in the fund). Those fees are a percentage of your invested assets, so by using index funds instead of mutual funds, you’ll continue to save as your portfolio grows in size. There are two downsides to index funds. First, their prices are set at the end of the trading day, regardless of what time of day you buy. This can limit your flexibility in buying and selling shares. Second, they often have initial investment minimums of a few thousand dollars, which can be cost-prohibitive to some investors. ETFs What is an ETF? Well, ETFs are sort of a hybrid — they trade like a stock, but they offer you the diversification of a mutual fund. Like index funds, you can use ETFs to invest in a variety of asset classes, like stocks, bonds, and commodities. But unlike index funds, ETFs give you more flexibility. First, there are no investment minimums. Instead, you buy shares of an ETF just like you’d buy shares of a stock. Second, you can make trades on ETFs during market hours, while index funds are priced at the end of the trading day. But there are some things to watch out for. While fees for ETFs are even lower than index funds, you can end up spending a lot on trade commissions if you make a lot of trades. Be mindful of how much your brokerage charges you whenever you buy or sell. And being able to trade ETF shares during market hours means the price per share can fluctuate while you’re thinking about buying or selling. So which is better? Truthfully, both index funds and ETFs have their upsides and downsides. And they are both excellent tools in an investor’s arsenal, allowing you diversification at a low price. What it comes down to is how much you have to invest right now, and what level of trading flexibility you’re looking for. A good fit for many first time investors is Betterment because the company doesn't have any account minimums and wraps the trading costs in with management fees. I also like that once the money hits your account, it is automatically invested in the asset allocation you choose and you don’t have to go into the account and decide which index fund or ETF you want to purchase. Its user experience is far superior to other investment management platforms and it only takes 10 minutes to set up a new account. Hopefully, this helps you get started investing! This post is part of a continuing series that answers all of your questions related to personal finance. Have your own question? Email yourmoney[at]businessinsider[dot]com. Sophia Bera, CFP® is the Founder of Gen Y Planning and has been quoted in The New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider, AOL, The Wall Street Journal, and Money Magazine. She tweets, travels, and loves helping millennials manage their money more effectively. Curious? Sign up for the free...
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Portfolio Backtest and more

Apr 30 5:13pm ETF Screen
We have recently completed a Portfolio Backtest page we are releasing today, and earlier this month we improved our Correlation Matrix page.  The Portfolio Backtest page is a simple way to test holding a known portfolio of symbols with periodic … Continue reading →...
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The massive shift taking place in investing might just be a fad

Apr 28 11:42am Money Game: ETFs
Investing can seem all about what's happening now — stock moves, Federal Reserve decisions, data releases. In reality, that's more of day-to-day trading. Much of investing is a slow burn — retirement plans, re-allocating every year or so, buy and hold. So when things do shift in the investing world it can feel monumental. This is exactly what's happening now with the shift to lower fees, passive management, and ETFs. As we've noted before, more and more retail investors are pulling their money from actively managed mutual funds and putting money in low-cost ETFs. This epic nature of the move makes it seem as if the old is going extinct, and that this is a secular shift. Not quite, said Gary Klopfenstein, CEO of Berenberg Asset Management, the management branch of the world's second-oldest bank still in existence. I don't think it's going to be a permanent change, Klopfenstein told Business Insider. These sorts of things are a kind of pendulum, and right now it's swinging in that direction but it always swings back the other way. Now to be fair, Klopfenstein's firm Berenberg is an active manager managing $40 billion all told, so the shift to low-cost passive is not great business for him. And he did agree that it may change the game somewhat. I don't necessarily think it will come back completely the other way, he said. People have recognized the benefits of things like ETFs and passive holdings, but eventually they will recognize that active managers can and do consistently produce alpha. Klopfenstein compared the move to passive to other investing trends. He told us: It's similar to the move to more international investments from say 2004 to 2014. Why? Well the [US] dollar was weak and so those investments outside of the US tended to make more money so it looked like there was incremental added value. Then 2014 and 2015 happen and all of a sudden it's not such a good idea. Did that create a movement out of global investing? A little bit, yeah. The counterpoint to this is an argument made by Meb Faber of Cambria Investment Management.  Once people pay less for a product, why would they ever go back? Faber said in an interview in April.  The idea being that once people pay less for passive strategies and realize the impact on performance of fees there will be no shift back, leading to a generational shift away from active managers. According to Klopfenstein, part of the shift is due to the current market environment. Many active managers have failed to hit their benchmarks as markets have stayed mainly flat for the past year or so. This came after a year-long rally that made it hard to differentiate between managers. Those factors led many to switch to passive, lower-cost strategies. This may change if instability seizes the market again. I think the movement into passive ETFs and things like that has changed the bottom, the baseline, said Klopfenstein. Whatever that is, it's raised it, but I do think when you start to see the volatility in the market come back you'll see the pendulum swing back [to active]. This is a glimmer of hope for active managers, since investors have been shown to chase performance. So if active strategies begin to outperform the market, money should flow back to firms like Berenberg. The massive, slow-moving march to low-cost passive investing certainly isn't going to switch on a dime, but it doesn't mean it will last forever. SEE ALSO: The hottest investment product is going to make mutual funds extinct Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: FORMER GREEK FINANCE MINISTER: The single largest threat to the global economy...
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One of the biggest types of investments may be going extinct

Apr 17 1:30pm Money Game: ETFs
Mutual funds have been a standby of retirement plans for decades, helping to provide a less risky vehicle for people to grow their wealth. The time is coming, however, when low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) will be the standardrather than mutual funds, according to Meb Faber of Cambria Investment Management. It's a one-way street, Faber told Business Insider. Mutual funds have so much baggage ... and are still dominated by active managers, which usually means they charge more. Once you go from a high-fee, tax-inefficient structure to a very low-fee, tax-efficient structure, you don't go back. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: There's a terrifying reason why people are warned to stay inside at 5:45 p.m. in parts of Mexico...
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The people that manage your money are getting crushed by the hottest investment product out there

Apr 14 2:35pm Money Game: ETFs
Your investment advisor has a problem — you're not paying them as much. According to a note from JP Morgan's Kenneth Worthington, Charles Schwab is seeing a significant switch from mutual funds to exchange traded funds (ETFs) that is crushing their fees and revenues. Charles Schwab is a huge asset manager. The firm had around $2.5 trillion in assets under management in 2014, so it's not unreasonable to view it as a bellwether for the broader sector. Worthington notes the number of people using mutual funds has dropped off in the past year while ETFs have exploded: We show that Mutual Fund OneSource AUM has been on the decline, from $260bn in 4Q14 to $207bn in 4Q15 (some accounting differences make the comparisons not quite apples to apples), said the note. While Mutual Fund OneSource is shrinking, ETF OneSource is growing smartly, although off a very small AUM base, currently standing at $16bn of AUM. The problem for advisors with this shift is that mutual funds typically charge more in fees than ETFs. So as more and more investors switch to the latter, fee revenue at places like Charles Schwab gets squeezed. This is huge, as fee revenue makes up 41\% of Schwab's total revenues according to Worthington. Fees per fee-AUM (the revenue yield in Schwab’s fee business) has been on the decline since mid-2009, falling from a peak of 50.5bps in 2Q09 to 36.8bps in 4Q15, when excluding the negative impact of money market fee waivers, wrote Worthington. While there are a number of issues weighing on the revenue yield in Schwab’s fee business, we feel the growth of ETF business is having a particularly negative impact on Schwab’s revenue yield. Going forward, this may be a structural decline. Meb Faber of Cambria Investment Management, himself a purveyor of low-cost ETF strategies, told Business Insider this isn't something that is going to turnaround. It's a one-way street, Faber said. Once you go from a high-fee, tax-inefficient structure to a very low-fee, tax-efficient structure, you don't go back. And so, places such as Schwab and other asset managers have to find a way to replace these lost fees and revenue. For Schwab, that may be a pivot to its banking division. In the meantime, however, asset managers face a tough road ahead.SEE ALSO: The hottest investment product is going to make mutual funds extinct Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Microsoft has created an AI bot that captions photos and it’s shockingly accurate...
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A short note on the psychology of investing

Apr 12 11:07am ETFreplay blog
Over the last eighteen months U.S. equity low volatility and relative strength strategies have performed comparatively well, whereas moving average and international portfolios have generally struggled. The reality is that, regardless of whichever investment approach is adopted, there will be periods of both outperformance and underperformance. It was ever thus. Good returns are fairly easy to handle; unless they lead to hubris, they largely take care of themselves. But there are no certainties in investing, only probabilities.  Nothing works all the time. Even when the odds are strongly in your favor, the trade / position won’t always work out. Probabilities play out in the long-run. In the short-term, anything can happen. Accept it. There will be periods of underperformance. When this happens it will be tempting to switch to a different approach that’s recently performed better. However, constantly searching for the 'answer' and bouncing between strategies is a great way to fail to capture the long term returns of any approach. i.e. Chucking in the towel on a buy-and-hold portfolio in 2009 and switching to a trend following approach. Then changing strategy once again in 2015 after that took some whipsaw losses. Having realistic expectations from the start makes it considerably more likely that you will have the necessary perseverance to stick with your chosen strategy.  This is where analyzing backtests, delving deep into the results, seeing that there have been adverse periods in the past, can be highly beneficial. Pursuing any single investment approach requires mental fortitude.  Buy-and-hold investors need to be able to stomach the deep drawdowns that their portfolios will suffer in bear markets. Those investing tactically require the temperament to handle the frustration of inevitable whipsaws. Diversifying at the strategy level (a la core-satellite), however, can provide an emotional hedge for those times when the market environment is particularly unfavorable to one approach or the other. It obviously also means not having to trust one’s objectives to the performance of a solitary model. Regardless of the approach, it’s the process, rather than short-term results, that must be kept uppermost. It’s by sticking with the process that objectives are most likely to be achieved over the long run. Some resources that might be useful:  A Wealth of Common Sense: From Great to Good A Wealth of Common Sense: The Psychology of Sitting in Cash Morgan Housel: It Was a Good Bet Meb Faber: Why Are You Outperforming? Why Are You Underperforming? Bason Asset Management: Diversification Sucks...
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The hottest investment product is going to make mutual funds extinct

Apr 11 1:20pm Money Game: ETFs
Mutual funds have been a standby of retirement plans for decades, helping to provide a less risky vehicle for people to grow their wealth. The time is coming, however, when low-cost ETFs will be the standard rather than mutual funds according to Meb Faber of Cambria Investment Management. It's a one-way street, Faber told Business Insider. Mutual funds have so much baggage... and are still dominated by active managers, which usually means they charge more. Once you go from a high-fee, tax inefficient structure to a very low fee, tax efficient structure you don't go back. ETFs are one of the fastest growing type of investment vehicles in the markets now. Due to generally lower costs than mutual funds, in the past 10 years, ETFs have gone from $230 billion is assets to around $4 trillion in early 2016, and it doesn't sem to be slowing down. Mutual funds, however, are still much bigger with nearly $16 trillion in assets according to industry group Investment Company Institute. Faber, in his mind, believes that ETFs can take the place of mutual funds, and that by 2020 more assets will be held in the former than the latter. The issue holding back the switch isn't necessarily people more interested in mutual funds, but simply the institutional inertia in investing. Here's Faber: There's a stat, the average financial advisor that's been in business for at least 10 years owns some think like 200 different mutual funds across his clients. Because a someone comes in and sells it, and he he says 'Oh, that's a good idea' and he puts it in some client accounts, forgets about it, and never sells it until that client either dies or moves... You end up with mutual fund salad because they have so many funds they don't know what they have. Eventually, Faber said, the shift will occur. So it's somewhat of a generational process, because mutual funds are sold, said Faber. It's a one way street and it's not going to happen, I mean it is happening this month, this quarter this year, but the real transfer is not until our parents and grandparents either die off or pass along assets, those get sold and no one goes back to paying 2\% [in fees]. We think its a trend that will continue. While there have been some criticism of ETFs, some worry they distort or dry up liquidity in the underlying markets, Faber doesn't think there is necessarily a problem with the vehicles. If $10 billion goes into high yield bonds, then that by the very nature of flows is going to change the asset class but not in a necessarily bad way, said Faber. At the end of the day, [ETFs] are still just a structure, so who knows maybe someone will come along and invent a new one. But we think this is a pretty good one right now for most asset classes. Mutual funds are dead.SEE ALSO: US companies are undergoing a transformation so huge it's 'nothing short of stunning' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: EX-UNDERCOVER DEA AGENT: What I did when drug dealers asked me to try the product...
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There's no reason to own a gold ETF

Apr 9 9:02am Money Game: ETFs
On March 4, BlackRock, the sponsor of the gold ETF iShares Gold Trust (IAU), announced it had temporarily suspended issuance of new shares in the fund. The sponsor admitted it had failed to register the new shares with the SEC as exchange traded commodity funds are required to do. The snafu was due to an “administrative oversight,” it was later explained. BlackRock was quick to add that IAU shares continued to trade without interruption in spite of the suspension. Nevertheless, the reality is that management lost administrative control over the fund and violated SEC regulations. As a consequence, BlackRock faces fines and penalties from both the SEC and state securities agencies, plus the possibility of lawsuits from shareholders for damages and interest. Perhaps most alarming, the situation only came to light because the fund alerted the SEC—in other words, government regulators were unaware of the violation. With watchdog agencies asleep at the wheel, the fund issued and sold $296 million of unregistered shares. This uber-blunder at IAU lays bare the fundamental hazard of using gold exchange traded funds: counterparty risks. All Gold ETFs Carry Counterparty Risks Bullion ETFs are convenient, provide exposure to one of the oldest investments, and the gold that backs the fund is inventoried, and the bar list shown on their websites. But they come with a set of risks inherent in their structure and operation. And these risks will grow commensurately with systemic uncertainties. Gold ETFs and bullion are very different investments. Physical gold is a tangible asset. Paper gold is a financial instrument. Your choice is to own the real thing, or a paper proxy. As a financial product, ETFs carry counterparty risk. This means that you must rely on another party—known to you or not—to make good on the investment. With a gold ETF, you are dependent upon, among other things, management prowess, fund structure, chain of custody, operational integrity, regulatory oversight, and delivery protocols (which are available only to very large shareholders). If any of those break down, your investment is at risk. The IAU management failure is a perfect example of counterparty risk. Further, it was off everyone’s radar (apparently even the company’s and regulators’). And that’s the problem: the frequency and severity of counterparty risks with gold ETFs are rising. Consider the operation of the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the world’s largest gold ETF. This fund uses a custodian—without question the most crucial counterparty in a gold ETF—with a history of unethical behavior that many investors aren’t aware of. This Custodial Bank Is Not Fit to Hold Your Gold HSBC is the custodian for GLD, which basically means that HSBC sources and stores the gold for the fund. At first, a huge international bank like HSBC looks like a safe place to store gold. But Bernie Madoff was the “best” hedge fund manager in New York and MF Global was one of the primary dealers is US Treasury securities. The former was convicted of running the biggest Ponzi scheme in US history and the latter went bankrupt after illegally using client funds in a desperate attempt to remain solvent. HSBC is teetering on disaster. Look at the behavior of Britain’s biggest bank and GLD’s custodian over the past two years: It was fined $1.9 billion for money laundering and sanctions violations. The US Department of Justice said the bank allowed drug traffickers to launder billions of dollars in the US and billions more to be moved across borders to countries facing sanctions, including terror-ridden Libya. HSBC admitted to laundering $881 million for two drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia. It also accepted $15 billion in cash across the bank’s counters in Mexico, Russia, and other countries. It has set aside $1.3 billion to settle claims that it manipulated foreign exchange rates. HSBC faces charges that it used predatory lending practices in the mortgage market. This is hardly the resumé of a bank that should be the custodian of the largest gold ETF. These concerns raise a couple red flags… Will you get the best price when you buy GLD? Can we be sure the bank doesn’t “front run” its customers? How safe are GLD’s holdings when the custodian bank has lost over $100 billion in market cap and its stock pri...
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Alibabas YuE Bao Struggles With Business Model As Liquidity In Chinese Banking Sector Improves

Jul 25 3:39am International Business Times
Alibaba’s Yu’E Bao, an online investment fund that has experienced stunning growth since it opened last June, is moving toward riskier investments to maintain its appeal among investors, according to a report.
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Running The Kinder Morgan Tax Obstacle Course

May 4 3:02am Seeking Alpha ETFs & Portfolio Strategy stocks
ByArthur Paullin: The basics of how Federal Income Taxes affect the owners of Kinder Morgan entities Introduction In the article Primer for Kinder Morgan I explained the basic structure of each of the three main Kinder Morgan entities, Kinder Morgan Partnership (KMP) , Kinder Morgan Management (KMR) and Kinder Morgan, Inc.(KMI) and their relationship to each other. There is a fourth Kinder Morgan entity, El Paso Pipeline Partners (EPB) which is a MLP formed when KMI purchased El Paso and was only briefly mentioned in my previous article. For this article, the taxation of its unit holders is exactly the same as for the unit holders of KMP.if you have not read the above article, I suggest you do so prior to reading this article as it established the organizational status of each company .I could have labeled this article "A primer for Kinder Morgan Taxes" asComplete Story »...
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Dollar ETF falls to new low

Mar 17 8:17am ETF Investing
The PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP) is trading at an all-time low in premarket action Thursday as the euro and Japanese yen strengthen against the greenback. U.S. traders were shocked late Wednesday by a sudden spike in the yen, which soared to a postwar high versus the dollar. The yen’s move higher […]...
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