Investors have been piling into the PIMCO Total Return ETF (NYSEArca: BOND) as the ETF shares outperformed the mutual fund version over the initial months. However, the performance disparity has diminished, and investors should not bet on the ETF to always beat its mutual fund counterpart, according to reports.

The BOND ETF has gained 7.6% since it launched on March 1, while the A-shares PIMCO Total Return Fund (PTTAX) returned 3% through Aug. 27, reports Jason Kephart for InvestmentNews. [PIMCO Total Return: ETF or Mutual-Fund Wrapper?]

Nevertheless, the outperformance was largely experienced  in the first three months – between March 1 to May 29, the ETF beat the mutual fund by 4.0%. Since May 29, BOND has gained 2.8%, compared to the 2.1% rise in PTTAX.

Morningstar analyst Timothy Strauts believes the difference in performance is due to their size – the smaller ETF version may trade more nimbly than the $270 billion mutual fund as the ETF only holds 300 securities, compared to the mutual fund’s 18,000 securities, reports Stan Luxenberg for Wealth Management. [Why PIMCO Total Return ETF is Beating Its Mutual Fund Counterpart]

“With the ETF, you are getting a fund run by Bill Gross, and you are getting a smaller portfolio,” Strauts said in the article.

Douglas Hodge, chief operating officer at PIMCO, said the firm anticipated the two investments to closely track one another, attributing the earlier outperformance to timing as the order at which the bonds were purchased and market volatility affected prices.

“We’re completely agnostic when it comes to which vehicle investors choose,” said Mr. Hodge. “We’ve had tremendous flows into both the ETF and the mutual fund. We think they can grow together.”

Nevertheless, there are difference between investing in the BOND ETF and the Total Return mutual fund. BOND has a 0.55% expense ratio and a 1.94% 30-day SEC yield, whereas PTTAX has a 0.85% expense ratio and a 1.65% 30-day SEC yield. Additionally, the ETF version trades daily, has no $1,000 minimum investment and no load fees.

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