Either way, ETF investors funneled billions into U.S., developed and emerging market equities. Over June, the Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VEA) saw $1.8 billion in inflows, iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: IEMG) attracted $1.3 billion, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO) added $1.3 billion, Vanguard 500 Index (NYSEArca: VOO) experienced $1.2 billion in inflows and iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (NYSEArca: EFA) brought in $619 million.
The inflows to developed market ETFs, which include a hefty Europe and Japan exposure, may have reflected investors’ improved outlook on these developed economies, and the focus on non-hedged international ETFs may also suggests that traders believe the foreign currencies will continue to appreciate against the U.S. dollar, especially as the Federal Reserve is loath to hike interest rates any time soon.
ETF investors’ foreign currency outlook is also relevant as the WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (NYSEArca: HEDJ) and WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity Fund (NYSEArca: DXJ) were among the least popular ETFs of the month, experiencing $1.3 billion and $819 million in outflows, respectively. The currency-hedged ETFs would underperform non-hedged funds when the foreign currencies appreciate against the U.S. dollar.
Meanwhile, the global zero and even negative interest rate environment may have pushed international investors into higher yielding assets, like those in the developing economies, which may have fueled the rising interest for emerging market ETFs.
The ongoing interest for VOO may be part of the ongoing shift toward low-cost, index-based strategies. VOO has a low 0.05% expense ratio, which would appeal to long-term, buy-and-hold investors. On the other hand, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEArca: SPY), which has a 0.09% expense ratio and is more popular among institutional traders, experienced $4.5 billion in net outflows over June.
Additionally, the Vanguard REIT ETF (NYSEArca: VNQ) was a popular sector play for the month, attracting close to $1.1 billion in net inflows. The real estate investment trusts category is seen as an attractive yield-generating alternative in an ongoing low-yield environment. Moreover, REITs may continue to experience a short-term boost in the months ahead as the S&P Dow Jones Indices stated it would add an 11th sector to its Global Industry Classification Standard, creating a new Real Estate Sector from the Financial Sector. The changes to the S&P 500 index will be implemented after the close of business on September 16, 2016.