Todd Rosenbluth, head of research, recently appeared on Bloomberg with hosts Kailey Leinz, Katie Greifeld, and Eric Balchunas to discuss how the dynamic between ETFs and mutual funds, momentum ETF strategies, and Tesla departure from the S&P 500 ESG index.

Bond mutual funds have seen more than $157 billion in outflows, while bond ETFs saw over $50 billion coming in. “This is the first year we’ve had in a long time that the average bond fund, whether it’s an ETF or a mutual fund, is down. If you are losing money, you want to pay as little as possible,” Rosenbluth noted, pointing out that low cost bond ETFs have been the beneficiary of recent inflows. The structural advantages of the ETF may also be driving the flows.

Questioned by Leinz about how investors are seeking defense strategies, Rosenbluth pointed to dividend strategies, consumer staples and utilities ETFs, and buffer/defined outcome strategies as doing better than the broader market. He also noted that factor investment tactics have shifted, with value ETFs garnering lots of newfound popularity.

Another factor, Momentum, is also having a bit of a resurgence. Greifeld noted the popular iShares MSCI USA Momentum Factor ETF (MTUM) has a big rebalance coming up. With over $10 billion in AUM, MTUM’s rebalanced is poised to make waves.

Rosenbluth notes that the rebalance, which happens every six months, will see lots of big changes given how the market performance has shifted. As currently composed, MTUM has almost no consumer staples, but those have been performing strongly recently.

Greifeld pointed out that six months can be an eternity in the market. “It has to go slowly where the puck is going and skate to it,” Rosenbluth said, noting that other momentum ETFs do more frequent rebalances. “You do have to look inside the portfolio and make sure you understand what you are getting when you sort through these momentum ETFs that sound like they are same but our actually quite different.”

Tesla Dropped from S&P ESG Index

Balchunas put out a twitter poll about whether or not Tesla is ESG, with over 80% of participants saying it is ESG. He wondered if this is a problem for ESG, that a company which ostensibly does something environmentally friendly, such as creating electric vehicles, can be excluded from ESG indexes.

According to Rosenbluth, “It is important to differentiate what is ‘e’, the environmental part of it, and the ‘s’ and the ‘g’ part of it.” Tesla’s exclusion comes from failures on the ‘s’ and ‘g’ side of ESG, with the company facing lawsuits for discrimination and Musk himself facing sexual assault charges. Tesla has had to navigate multiple bizarre scandals.

Given that multiple considerations go into ESG, it’s important to know what goes into a given ESG ETF. “Not all ESG ETFs are the same. You need to go beyond the label,” Rosenbluth noted, countering the assertion that this problem is unique to ESG. “There’s different way to calculate value, there’s different ways to calculate growth.”

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