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When Structure Matters: ETF, ETN, Or Other?

by on December 12, 2011 | Updated July 9, 2014

As some financial advisors are now well aware, the term “ETF” is often used rather liberally to refer to a variety of different exchange-traded products that generally function in the same manner from the perspective of an investor. More accurately, ETFs can be described as a type of exchange-traded product, or ETP, an umbrella that also covers exchange-traded commodities, exchange-traded notes, and unit investment trusts (UITs). The nuances of these various structures might not make for the most lively discussion, but it is a worthwhile task for anyone who manages money for a living, as the seemingly minor differences between these types of products can often have a meaningful impact on risk taken on and bottom line returns realized [see 25 Things Every Financial Advisor Should Know About ETFs].

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With over 1,600 exchange-traded products on the market as of 2014, investors have likely run into some seemingly “duplicate” offerings. While many of the “plain vanilla” products have quite a bit in common, there are more than a handful of funds which offer seemingly identical exposure, although a closer look under the hood reveals some noteworthy surprises [see 25 Things Every Financial Advisor Should Know About ETFs]. The old saying “never judge a book by its cover” can certainly help investors when it comes time to doing the proper research necessary for selecting a fund that best suits their objectives and risk tolerance.

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With the finish line in sight, it’s fairly safe to say that 2011 will be remembered by most investors as a wild, back-and-forth year that brought plenty of both hope and despair. A hot start raised optimism of a continued recovery after a generally impressive 2011, but the summer months were anything but relaxing; major […]

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25 Things Every Financial Advisor Should Know About ETFs

by on November 2, 2011 | Updated December 8, 2014

The rapid expansion of the ETF industry has been one of the most important developments of the last several decades to financial professionals; as the lineup of exchange-traded products has surged past 1,600, financial advisors now have more tools in their toolkits than ever before to help construct client portfolios. With these new financial products […]


Global X, the fast-growing ETF issuer known for its lineup of commodity-focused funds, announced more plans for expansion in the space with the filing for two new MLP ETFs. If approved, the new funds would mark Global X’s first move into the increasingly popular space that has attracted billions of dollars over the last few […]

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When ETNs Are Better Than ETFs

by on March 16, 2011 | Updated December 8, 2014

As the universe of exchange-traded products has expanded considerably in recent years, investors have become more aware of the nuances between the various types of investment vehicles. Under the “ETF umbrella” are a number of product structures that aren’t true 1940 Act exchange-traded funds, including unit investment trusts (UITs) and grantor trusts. Also included are […]


More Thoughts On MLP ETFs/ETNs

by on March 3, 2011 | Updated December 8, 2014

With interest rates still hovering near record lows and expected to remain depressed for the foreseeable future, investors have been forced to get creative in their hunt for yield. Some have dialed up exposure to junk bonds, while others have ventured beyond the U.S. border and embraced debt of emerging markets issuers. MLPs have been […]

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Though the recent tax agreement between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans was hailed as an historic compromise, there is no shortage of politicians and organizations–from both the left and the right–expressing frustrations with the accord. In addition to extending the Bush-era tax cuts for an additional two years, the deal signed into law last […]

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MLP Exposure: ETF or ETN?

by on November 18, 2010 | Updated November 8, 2012

The ALPS Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) has been one of the most successful new products to hit the market in recent months, accumulating assets of more than $350 million in less than three months of operation. While the tremendous cash inflows reflect an overwhelmingly positive reception to AMLP, the new fund has also started a […]


Continuing its push for dominance in the MLP space, UBS announced this week the launch of the E-TRACS Wells Fargo MLP Index ETN (MLPW). The new exchange-traded note will be linked to the Wells Fargo Master Limited Partnership Index, a float adjusted, capitalization weighted benchmark that seeks to measure the performance of all energy master […]

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MLP ETFs: Fact And Fiction

by on October 12, 2010 | Updated November 6, 2012

The relatively short history of the ETF industry has witnessed both predictable failures and unexpected successes. The hyper-targeted HealthShares line of ETFs seemed like an ill-conceived idea from day one, and few were surprised when the plug was repeatedly pulled on various iterations of the MacroShares products [see ETF Hall Of Shame: Nine Exchange-Traded Debacles]. […]

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In recent years, few corners of the investing world have been the subject of as much controversy, misinformation, and confusion as the leveraged ETF space. Last summer these securities received widespread coverage from the financial media, much of it either implying directly or alleging that leveraged ETFs were flawed investment vehicles designed to dupe average […]

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