The continued growth of the exchange-traded products industry has shined a light on the fact this business, while booming, is far from perfect. Notably, analysts, experts and pundits this year have increased scrutiny of those ETFs that are deemed to be too small as measured by assets under management.
Typically, $100 million is the number thrown around as the AUM level at which an ETF becomes profitable for its sponsor. The $100 million level is also viewed as the point at which investors do not have to worry about the ETF being closed.
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What is often lost in this conversation is that profitability for the ETF sponsor and the fund's investors are two entirely different animals. That is to say ignoring low asset ETFs can prove costly and the data prove as much. Through June ten of the top-30 ETFs in terms of year-to-date performance had less than $50 million in AUM.
The trend has continued this month as scores of low AUM funds have delivered stellar returns to investors.
Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (NYSE:EGPT) The Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF is one of the case studies for the price investors pay investors pay for ignoring "small" ETFs. With $61.4 million in AUM as of September 19, EGPT would be considered small by many experts and in danger of closing by some. What is not being acknowledged is that EGPT's AUM total has surged by about 20 percent since the end of August.
More importantly, the ETF has shrugged off myriad negative headlines pertaining to the Middle East, including those about protests in Cairo, to jump 10.2 this month. Many of those up days have been realized on extraordinary volume, too.
Global X Pure Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GGGG) In a crowded field dominated by the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSE:GDX) it is easy for rival funds to go unnoticed. That is the case with the Global X Pure Gold Miners ETF. GGGG debuted in March 2011 and has less than $5.1 million in AUM. With gold miners finally outperforming the yellow metal which they mine, GGGG is an ETF that should not be ignored. A 15.6 percent gain since the start of this month proves as much.
Market Vectors Indonesia Small-Cap ETF (NYSE:IDXJ) To this point, there have been more reasons to avoid than embrace the newly-minted Market Vectors Indonesia Small-Cap ETF. Chief among them being the fact that IDXJ has lagged the performance of the Market Vectors Indonesia ETF (NYSE:IDX) over the past few months.
Easily defined bull and bear cases exist for IDXJ, but there is no avoiding the fact that IDXJ is enjoying a solid September. With just $2.4 million in AUM, the ETF is up 7.6 percent this month, outperforming IDX by more than 220 basis points in the process.
PowerShares S&P International Developed High Beta Portfolio (NYSE:IDHB) Naysayers could say the PowerShares S&P International Developed High Beta Portfolio's September performance is no big deal because the ETF is doing what it is supposed to do and that is outperform when the broader market is moving higher. On the other hand, an ETF accomplishing its stated objectives is important because some funds advertise one objective and get nowhere near delivering on that promise.
Bottom line: IDHB does what it is supposed to do. High beta ETFs have not yet had many days in the sun compared to low beta and low volatility products. However, if European equities continue to rebound, IDHB will extend its gains. As it is, the fund is up 7.8 percent this month even though it has just $2.3 million in AUM.
For more on unheralded ETFs, click here.
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