What can you say about the world of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) besides the fact that they are just red hot?
Well, we can start by looking at the numbers for August to see just how hot these investment vehicles have become. One data point that tells us a lot about just how earnest the embrace of ETFs has been is fund inflows.
In August, U.S.-listed ETFs saw approximately $15 billion in fund flows, pushing the number of total assets into the segment up by 3% to another new record total. As of the end of August, U.S.-listed exchange-traded funds held more than $1.19 trillion in assets.
Interestingly, 2013’s stellar gains in U.S. stocks actually outpaced the inflows so far in 2014. According to data from the industry, U.S.-listed ETFs have seen approximately $106 billion in fund flows through the first eight months of the year. That compares relatively modestly with the $130 billion through the same eight-month period last year.
Still, the gains in August were impressive, and there just seems to be no stopping the popularity and appeal of ETFs to individual investors, institutional buyers, professional traders — and just about any type of investor who wants low-cost, efficient exposure to specific indices, sectors, countries or asset classes.
So, which funds notched particularly strong inflows in August?
This may come as a surprise to some, but to readers of this publication, it shouldn’t. In fact, throughout the year I’ve been talking about the biggest surprise in the markets in 2014, and that is the continuation of very low bond yields (low interest rates). The decline in bond yields means rising bond prices, and judging by the August inflows, bonds continue to impress.
The biggest fund flows in August were seen in the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF), but that wasn’t the only Treasury bond fund in the top 10 fund gatherers. The iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY) captured the third-highest inflows in the month, while the iShares 3-7 Year Treasury Bond (IEI) and iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond (HYG) also were among the 10 biggest asset recipients in August.
Of course, stock funds also captured their fair share of inflows, with the Vanguard S&P 500 (VOO), the iShares Core S&P 500 (IVV) and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (EEM) atop the equity funds capturing the biggest inflows.
The verdict is in my friends — both bond and stock ETFs are red hot. So, if you’re not allocated to at least some ETFs, you’re likely not investing as well as you could be.