The latest industry figures from the National Stock Exchange are out, and despite a challenging market environment, ETFs keep rolling along. Total ETF assets fell during May from $846.7 billion to $798.0 billion, a decline of almost 6%. But that plunge was attributable primarily to declining asset values, which were partially offset by continued inflows into ETFs. Net cash flows in May came to $6.3 billion, a drop of more than 50% from the previous month, but still a rather impressive accomplishment considering the overall economic environment.
After posting a solid April, U.S. equity ETFs saw big outflows in May; $3.4 billion left these funds during the month, a big chunk of which ($2.4 billion) was attributable to the PowerShares QQQ (QQQQ). iShares saw $1.2 billion of cash outflows on the month, losing ground to both State Street ($6.5 billion in inflows) and Vanguard ($2.2 billion in inflows). Among the smaller issuers, PIMCO and Global X turned in impressive performances. PIMCO took in $622 million, equal to a whopping 67% of April assets. Global X took in $46 million, or about 30% of April assets, thanks to a hot start to its Silver Miners ETF (SIL). Both issuers saw net increases in assets on the month, making them among a select few for May.
May was also a good month for leveraged ETF providers; Direxion and ProShares took in more than $2.6 billion in aggregate as interest in leveraged and inverse products spiked in unison with market volatility (both issuers also joined the list of firms that saw a net increase in assets).
Fund By Fund
At the individual ETF level, there were a number of intriguing figures in May. After QQQQ, the biggest outflows belonged to two of the month’s best performing products; the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX) and Mid Term Futures ETN (VXZ) saw outflows of $1.0 billion and $541 million, respectively. Both ETNs skyrocketed in May as the VIX jumped off the charts.
It was the opposite story for crude oil ETFs; as commodity prices plunged, creation activity jumped as investors looked to play a rebound through ETFs. The United States Commodity Fund (USO) took in $773 million, or about 45% of April assets. The PowerShares DB Oil Fund (DBO) took in $175 million, or almost half the asset level from the previous month (see What Oil ETFs Tell Us About Crude Prices).
In a closely-watched head-to-head battle, the Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) continued to gain on the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM). Both ETFs track the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, and VWO has grown at an impressive rate in recent months, thanks in part to its competitive expense ratio (0.27% compared to 0.72% for EEM). VWO saw inflows of $1.8 billion, while EEM took in $967 million (see Five Ways To Slash Your ETF Expenses).
The Gold SPDR (GLD) benefited from the rush to safe havens in May; assets increased by more than 12% and monthly inflows topped $4.2 billion. But the most impressive May performance was turned in by the PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity (MINT), which saw assets climb from $179 million to $774 million, a monthly increase of more than 300%.
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Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.