Seven Surprisingly Large ETFs

by on February 21, 2012 | ETFs Mentioned:

Everyone is familiar with the SPDR S&P 500 Fund (SPY). SPY is by far the most popular ETF in the world, with nearly $100 billion in assets and an ADV around 150 million. Those numbers ensure that this is not only the largest ETF in the world, but one of the largest funds in the investing space. It was the first ETF ever listed (though note that it is structured as a UIT) and has a track record of almost two decades. But while many focus on the king of ETFs, there are a number of other products that have amassed a healthy number of assets, sometimes under the radar [see also Why No Investor Should Own GLD].

Below, we list seven ETFs with a large base of assets though many investors may not be aware or simply would not expect these funds to hold billions in assets.

Alerian MLP Index ETN (AMJ)

This note tracks an index which tracks the performance of the MLP sector. Master Limited Partnerships are well-liked by investors due to the large income streams that they offer their investors; when a firm pays out a certain portion of its revenues as dividends, it can effectively eliminate a number of tax burdens that a normal company is subjected to. AMJ is home to assets of over $4 billion despite launching in 2009, proving its investment thesis to be a hot topic among the general public. The fund pays out a dividend yield of around 4.6% and has returned over 6% in 2012 [see also Five Commodity MLPs With Sky High Yields].

MSCI Brazil Index Fund (EWZ)

With nearly 12 years of trading under its belt, EWZ is easily one of the most popular country-specific emerging market ETFs. The fund tracks Brazilian equities with top holdings like oil giant Petrobras. With returns of nearly 20% this year and almost 94% for the trailing three year period, it is easy to see why investors have flocked to EWZ. The fund has about $10.7 billion in assets with an average daily trading volume of about 15.7 million shares. The aforementioned figures make EWZ the 20th largest U.S.-listed ETF as well as one of the most traded.

Barclays MBS Bond Fund (MBB)

 MBB is designed to track an index which measures the performance of investment grade fixed-rate mortgage-backed pass-through securities of GNMA, FNMA, and FHLMC. Mortgage-backed securities have been a hot topic since the housing bottom and subsequent recession, but that has not kept investors away from this fund. MBB has roughly $4.5 billion in total assets and charges just 0.31% in fees. Some investors may think of this fund has somewhat invincible given the “too big to fail” tag that has been bestowed upon Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae [see also Bond ETFs: 12 Stops Along The Risk/Return Spectrum]. 

Enhanced Short Maturity Strategy Fund (MINT)

Bill Gross is one of the biggest names in the fixed income industry, but not all are aware of PIMCO’s (and therefore Gross’) presence in the exchange traded industry. This ETF, which is actively managed, charges just 0.35% for its exposure, marking an extremely cheap option as far as active management is concerned. By attaching Gross’ name to this product, MINT has amassed nearly $1.5 billion in total assets even though the fund just turned two in November of last year. 

Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF (MOO)

This ETF seeks to replicate an index which provides exposure to publicly traded companies worldwide that derive at least 50% of their revenues from the business of agriculture. Launched in 2007, MOO was relatively slow out of the gate, but 2011 was kind to this fund as it experienced inflows over $4 billion; all of 2010 saw MOO gain just $19 million in assets. Now, this popular agribusiness fund has over $6 billion in assets as has cemented its place as one of the largest and most popular commodity ETPs on the market [see also 50 Ways To Invest In Agriculture]. 

S&P US Preferred Stock Fund (PFF

Preferred stocks have long been investor favorites as they often offer enticing yields while establishing a leg up on common shares if a company were ever forced into bankruptcy. This ETF measures the performance of a selected group of preferred stocks listed in the US. Top holdings include names like General Motors and Citigroup among a number of other bellwether firms. The fund will turn five in March of this year and is on track to have over $8 billion in total assets by that time. PFF trades hands over 1.5 million times daily and pays out a nice 30 Day SEC Yield of 6.6% [see also 12 High-Yielding Commodities For 2012].

Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)

 After a strong performance in 2011, XLU was put on the map for a lot of investors who typically skimmed over its rather plain-vanilla exposure. XLU simply tracks U.S. utilities and has been doing so since its inception in 1998. The fund has lost some ground this year, but its current dividend yield of nearly 4% will help offset those losses. XLU has garnered nearly $6.5 billion in total assets while maintaining a daily volume of about 7.9 million.

Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.