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Top ETF Stories of 2019 & Picks for 2020

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  • (0:45) - What Kind Of Growth Will ETFs See In 2020?
  • (7:00) - Why Should Investors Consider Thematic ETFs?
  • (10:50) - How Should Investors Use Smart Beta ETFs?
  • (13:55) - Breaking Down Zero Fee and Commission Free Trading In 2020
  • (18:15) - Why Have We Seen Growth In ESG ETF Popularity?
  • (21:00) - Understanding The Non-transparent ETF Structure
  • (25:10) - Top ETF Picks For 2020

In this episode of ETF Spotlight, I speak with Todd Rosenbluth, senior director of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA. We discuss the top ETF stories of 2019 and the outlook for 2020.

2019 is turning out to be another banner year for ETF inflows. Assets held by US listed ETFs have surged to over $4.4 trillion but the bigger story this year is record inflows into fixed income ETFs.

We also saw a record number of ETF liquidations this year. Invesco recently announced closure of 42 ETFs. Most of the ETFs that are shuttered failed to attract assets.

Is this trend healthy for the industry?

Many interesting thematic ETFs focused on areas like robotics, fintech and cloud computing are available to investors now. But thematic ETFs are generally more expensive and more volatile due to their narrow focus. Many of them have underperformed the plain-vanilla, ultra-cheap broad tech ETFs like the Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund XLK and the Vanguard Information Technology ETF VGT that are up almost 48%  this year.

Do thematic ETFs deserve a place in investors’ portfolios?

Smart beta ETFs have become quite popular with investors and assets in these products now exceed $1 trillion. Some of these funds like the iShares Edge MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF QUAL have been able to outperform the S&P 500 index over the long-term. Can these be used as core holdings in portfolios?

We have been witnessing cut-throat price war in the ETF world. Five exchange traded products now have zero or negative fees. Most brokerages now offer zero commission trading on stocks & ETFs.

How will commission free trading change the ETF landscape?

2019 was a big year for ESG ETFs. The top launches of this year are two ESG ETFs--the iShares ESG MSCI USA Leaders ETF SUSL and the Xtrackers MSCI USA ESG Leaders Equity ETF USSG. Both these products have gathered over $1.6 billion in assets, though a lot of that money came from Finland’s largest pension insurance company.

The SEC approved the non-transparent ETF structure this year. This would help active managers who are concerned about the risk of “front running” by competitors. Will these be popular with investors?

Todd’s top ETF picks for 2020 are the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF - Free Report) and the iShares iBoxx USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF LQD. Tune into the podcast to learn more.

You can follow Todd on Twitter @ToddCFRA and also visit CFRA website to learn more about their research. 

Make sure to be on the lookout for the next edition of the ETF Spotlight and remember to subscribe! If you have any comments or questions, please email

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