Breaking Down First-Quarter ETF Flows

April 4th at 1:00pm by Tom Lydon

Equity exchange traded funds finished in positive territory for the first quarter of 2013. The S&P 500 had a year-to-date return of 10.61% through the end of March.

“And now more data showing investors’ risk appetites are whetted. BlackRock reports that investors globally spent a net $70.1 billion on exchange-traded funds in the first quarter, beating out last year’s $65.5 billion for the strongest 1Q on record,” Brendan Conway wrote for Barron’s. [Record ETF Inflows Despite Selling in Largest Stock, Gold Funds]

Equity ETFs with a domestic stock focus have exhibited strong performance in the first quarter of 2013. Around 446 equity ETFs have a market-cap over $50 million, and 371 of those posted a positive return as of the third quarter 2013, according to S&P Capital.

Top-performing ETFs for the first quarter had total returns above 16.6%. The SPDR S&P Insurance ETF (NYSEArca: KIE), First Trust HealthCare AlphaDEX Fund (NYSEArca: FXH) and the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity Fund (NYSEArca: DXJ) were top performing ETFs and are rated “Overweight” by the ratings company. [ETFs That Benefit From A Rising Dollar]

“Bond flows moderated to $11.6 billion from $19.2 billion last year, while commodity ETFs lost $8.5 billion to investor outflows, led by the exodus from SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEArca: GLD), which shed $6.6 billion, as more investors decided the metal’s future may be less shiny than the past,” Conway wrote.

Major stock indices also rallied and hit record highs last month. Steven Russolillo for The WSJ reports that the Dow Jones Industrial Index gained 11%, alongside the S&P 500, which gained 10%. [ETF Chart of the Day: Healthcare]

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.