Bond ETF Liquidity Under Regulatory Microscope | ETF Trends

As the Federal Reserve looks to interest rate normalization, some bond observers are worried about exchange traded fund liquidity risks in the event of a major sell-off. Consequently, the Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed a set of rules to help obviate the potential risks.

The SEC is concerned that funds might be exposed to debt securities that are not easily liquidated in the primary markets, reports Ari I. Weinberg for the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, the regulatory body believes some funds may be forced to sell illiquid securities in a fire-sale event that would drag down their price, which would cause a fund to incur heavy losses and lower its value.

Consequently, the SEC is proposing new rules to mitigate the risks. For instance, a proposed rule would require funds to categorize the liquidity risk of their holdings according to the number of days it would take to dump the assets without adversely affecting the market price. Moreover, regulators want to clarify guidelines that no more than 15% of a fund’s assets should be held in securities that would require over seven days to convert to cash.

However, financial industry groups, including the Investment Company Institute and several ETF issuers, argue that the proposals are not relevant to ETFs since the funds are not structured like traditional open-end mutual funds.

ETFs are traded on the stock exchange like common stocks, so shares are traded among investors, not between investors and the fund. As long as there is an investor willing to buy an ETF sell order, ETF shares are traded between investors, so no shares are being redeemed by the fund. ETF shares are created or redeemed by buying or selling underlying assets through an Authorized Participant when the ETF’s market price deviates from the net asset value of the underlying holdings. [How ETFs Are Traded]