Wall Street’s Last Hope for Profits

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April 14, 2009 1:48pm ETF BASIC NEWS

penniesUntil recently, investors had more than enough money for financial firms on and off Wall Street to earn monster profits. In the midst of this major recession, however, money managers have started fighting for every penny they can get.

The latest evidence of how the fight for assets continues to intensify comes from recent announcements from Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW) and the Pimco unit of Allianz (NYSE: AZ) that they both intend to offer exchange-traded funds. Schwab’s offering will use the Dow Jones U.S. Total Stock Market Index as its benchmark, while the Pimco fund will track an index of Treasury bonds.

The move may seem relatively innocuous, especially since both firms have only registered a single fund with the SEC. Yet the decisions could have ripple effects throughout the industry.

ETF domination
Currently, a few firms dominate the ETF scene. Barclays (NYSE: BCS) has its iShares line of ETFs, with $254.7 billion under management as of Dec. 31, 2008. State Street (NYSE: STT), meanwhile, has its well-known SPDR offerings, which make up $159.5 billion. Those two firms make up more than three-quarters of the ETF universe.

Smaller competitors, such as Vanguard, ProShares, and Invesco‘s (NYSE: IVZ) PowerShares, have found niches of their own to fill. Vanguard focuses on low-cost offerings, while PowerShares has tried to use less traditional indexes to track. ProShares has had great success from its leveraged funds, especially on the bear-market side.

Where Schwab and Pimco will fit into the picture remains unclear. Of course, a single ETF is unlikely to do any lasting damage to their competitors. But the move could represent an opening salvo in a much larger war.

Full Story:  http://www.fool.com/investing/etf/2009/03/09/wall-streets-last-hope-for-profits.aspx

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