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ETF News And Commentary

Eric Dutram

ETF Trading Report: Treasury, Emerging Market Bond ETFs In Focus

EMB SHV

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U.S. data was in focus as the markets opened up the first trading day of the third quarter. Unfortunately, the data wasn’t exactly optimistic as the ISM Manufacturing Index came in below expectations and under the key 50% level which indicates a contracting factory sector.

Thanks to this bearish report, American stocks started the week on a poor note slumping during the first hour and a half of the session. However, stocks soon found a floor and many securities managed to finish the day either at breakeven or in the green. In fact, both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq finished the day ahead, with these two benchmarks adding, respectively, 0.3% and 0.6%, although the Dow did slump by nine points on the day.

In terms of sectors, basic materials and especially industrial goods makers finished the day in the red, largely thanks to the ISM report. On the upside, telecom, consumer goods, and much of health care did manage to stay in the green for the third quarter’s first session (read The Five Best ETFs from the Past Five Years).

Currency markets were once again tilted towards the dollar as the euphoria over last Friday’s euro summit has definitely worn off, helping the euro lose about one cent on the day against the greenback. However, the dollar strength did translate into a solid session for T-bills, as the 10 year note did see yields fall yet again, this time below the 1.60% mark.

Commodity trading was surprisingly decent, although the headline products of oil and gold were losers on the day. Instead, leadership was once again in the soft commodity market, and especially in grains, as corn and wheat both added more than 2% on the day as hot weather continued to dominate much of the Midwest.

Despite the prospect of lower-than-average volume thanks to the mid-week holiday, most ETFs did see solid levels of activity to open up the week. While the precious metals, and some of the big U.S. and Asia-Pacific products didn’t see a great deal of trading activity, a number of sector specific, European, and bond ETFs did see outsized volume on the day.

In particular, investors saw a great deal of interest in the short-term bond market, as evidenced by a burst of volume in the iShares Barclays Short Treasury Bond ETF (SHV - ETF report). This product usually does about 260,000 shares in a normal session but saw over 2.2 million shares change hands today (read Seven Biggest Bond ETFs by AUM).

Apparently, investors flowed into the segment as a safe haven from a possible slowdown, as a variety of other products in the space also saw huge volume levels on the day as well. Much of the volume came in the first hour of the session as the results from the ISM report were still being digested so it is pretty clear that at least some investors are seeking shelter in ultra-short term securities for at least the time being.

Another bond ETF segment that was in focus was the emerging market space, led by high levels of activity in the iShares JPMorgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (EMB - ETF report). This product usually sees volume of about 690,000 shares in a day but surged to 4.5 million shares to open up the third quarter (read Top Two Emerging Market USD Bond ETFs Head-to-Head).

Emerging market bonds like those in EMB don’t exactly have a reputation for being a safe haven, but investors seemed to be very interested in the space to open up the quarter pretty much across the board. However, it should be noted that dollar denominated bonds in this segment were among the biggest winners and most of these securities saw the volume really tick higher in the final hour or so of Monday’s trading.

(see more in the Zacks ETF Center)

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