Ron Rowland: ETF Deathwatch membership rolls dropped by 15 for April, and for the first time in 25 months the list contains fewer than 300 products. Five names joined the list, eight came off due to improved health, and a dozen exited because they are no longer with us. The ETF Deathwatch for April contains 299 products, consisting of 201 ETFs and 98 ETNs. Among the ETFs on the list, 16 are categorized as actively managed funds.
Unlike March, when a large percentage of ETPs joining the list had similar objectives, the five new additions for April all have different objectives. Products targeting emerging markets infrastructure, US REITs, precious metals, inverse TIPS, and large cap stocks equally weighted by risk comprise the new members. These are not overly crowded categories, and the latter two are quite unique, so it does not appear to be an over-supply issue.
Half of the products coming off because of improved health are part of the PowerShares DB family of single country bond futures ETNs. Assets across these four ETNs jumped more than 300% in March, from less than $50 million to more than $200 million. It’s probably safe to say an institutional investor has added these ETNs to their investment arsenal.
One of the primary purposes of ETF Deathwatch is to warn investors of potential closures. Of the thirteen ETF closures in March, twelve were on the list, implying that ETF Deathwatch is performing its duty. The one closure not identified as being in danger is somewhat of a mystery. The moderately successful Pax MSCI EAFE ESG Index ETF (EAPS) had more than $50 million in assets when Pax World announced the fund’s fate back in January. However, EAPS was far from a typical closure. Instead of shutting down and liquidating, it converted to an old fashion open-end mutual fund.
The average age of products on Deathwatch increased from 41.6 to 42.5 months with 76 of them more than five years old. The average asset size increased from $6.8 million to $7.2 million, and 47 products have less than $2 million in assets. Eight ETPs went the entire month of March with zero volume, and 177 (11%) saw no action on the last day of the month.