In what can be viewed as further proof that institutions and professional money managers are increasing their use of exchange-traded products, Ray Dalio's Bridgewater Associates now holds massive stakes in at least five ETFs. In fact, ETFs comprise the four largest positions at Bridgewater and six of the hedge fund's top-10 holdings, according to recent data.
During the third quarter, Bridgewater, the world's largest hedge fund with $130 billion in assets under management, added nearly 146,000 shares to its position in the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY). The firm now held over 18.2 million shares of SPY, the world's largest ETF by assets, at the end of the third quarter. The firm also held a small stake in the iShares Core S&P 500 (IVV) at the end of the quarter. No changes were made to that position.
When it comes to emerging markets, Dalio's view appears mixed. Bridgewater boosted its stake in the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF by nearly 10.5 million shares during the third quarter to take the firm's interest in the largest emerging markets ETF to almost 49.3 million shares. The firm also added 1.6 million shares of VWO's primary rival, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM), according to Tickerspy data. Bridgewater held more than 33 million shares of EEM, the second-largest emerging markets ETF by assets, at the end of the third quarter.
However, Bridgewater pared its stake in the iShares MSCI Brazil Index Fund (EWZ) by nearly 850,000 shares. The firm owned over1.15 million shares of EWZ at the end of Q3. Bridgewater initiated its EWZ position in the second quarter and there is a chance Bridgewater has taken some losses on the trade.
EWZ, the largest ETF tracking Latin America's largest economy, has struggled this year and is the worst-performing of the four major ETFs tracking the BRIC nations. In order for Bridgewater to have avoided losses on EWZ, it would have had to pare its stake in mid-August or in mid-September. Those are the only dates during the quarter when EWZ spent any significant stretch of time trading around or above $56. EWZ is Bridgewater's fourth-largest position after SPY, VWO and EEM.
In what could be viewed as a modest yield grab, Bridgewater added over 17,000 shares of the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond Fund (LQD) during Q3. At the end of that quarter, the hedge fund owned almost 357,000 shares of the ETF, making it the firm's sixth-largest position.
The iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond Fund has over $25.5 billion in assets, making it by far the largest ETF offering exposure to high-grade corporate bonds. With an effective duration of 7.74 years, LQD has a 30-day SEC yield of 2.75 percent, according to iShares data.
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