Last year, investors poured a record $247.3 billion into exchange traded funds and notes, marking the second consecutive year inflows topped $200 billion.
With those massive 2013 inflows came at least two prominent themes: The rising popularity of smart beta or intelligent index ETFs and the repudiation of emerging markets funds. Smart beta ETFs “contributed a record $65.1bn of inflows in 2013 led by dividend-weighted funds, and nearly doubled the $34.2bn from last year,” said BlackRock. [Record Inflows for ETFs in 2013]
As for emerging markets ETFs, five of the 10 worst funds in terms of 2013 outflows were emerging markets funds, a group that included the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO) and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: EEM). Outflows from emerging markets ETFs totaled nearly $11 billion last year, Investor’s Business Daily reports, citing the Investment Company Institute.
At the end of last year, there 335 smart beta ETFs with a combined $291 billion in assets, or 17% of the total at U.S. ETFs, IBD reported.
Things were even worse in January and February as investors pulled almost $12.6 billion from emerging markets funds. Those outflows ebbed last month and have recently turned into positive flows. [Investors Returning to EM ETFs]
In just the first 10 days of April, emerging markets ETFs raked in almost $4.6 billion, according to IBD. From April 1 through April 17, EEM has pulled in $3.83 billion while VWO has inflows of $651.5 million. Still, investors are approaching some single-country ETFs with caution. The iShares China Large-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: FXI) has lost more than $224 million since the start of this month as just one example.