Tagged: ETF

Hired ETF Guns

I dare you.

Ever say that as a kid? “I’ll give you a dollar if you—” (fill in the blank)

Last week the SEC approved a plan by the NASDAQ for sponsors of ETFs trading less than a million shares daily – 93% of ETFs – to pay $50,000-$100,000 annually to market participants if they dare to trade any of these ETFs more aggressively.

We opposed this plan because it allocates dues and fees specifically, not equitably as the Exchange Act requires, and it promotes statistical arbitrage – trading securities for spreads. That’s harmful to buy-and-hold investors and the issuers who seek them out.

The NASDAQ argued – successfully – that stimulating trading in weak ETFs unattractive to automated market-makers will shrink spreads, boost volumes and benefit investors.

Yesterday at TABB Forum, a news site for the trading community hosted by influential consultancy the TABB Group, Stephen Bain from RBC Capital Markets wrote a piece called “The Hidden Cost of Tighter Spreads.” RBC studied trading before and after spreads between the best prices to buy or sell tightened through decimalization and automated market-making.

Bain wrote: “Our initial analysis documents a marked increase in short-term price gyrations for individual stocks, which have effectively doubled from pre-2000 levels to present. This finding represents a significant increased cost for investors – entirely contrary to claims that lower execution costs now prevail.”

We arrived at similar conclusions. The average US stock has Total Intramonth Volatility (TIV) of roughly 40%, calculated by subtracting the low price from the high price each day, dividing by closing price, then tallying those over 20 trading days. (more…)

Eternal Motion

“What happened to our stock?”

It remains the question that haunts the dreams of IR professionals. Well, that and whether it’s better to use “via” or “through” in the call script.

Looking back through July Sentiment Indicators for clients, which reflect how passive and active investment, speculative trading, and technical signals affect price, it’s a startling picture. Only two – total! – for the entire month thus far were at any point “green across the board,” meaning each behavior tipped green, rather than yellow or red, signaling the best forward view.

Think about that. If our client base is a reasonable proxy for the market, why is 95% of it something less than “all good”? Surely more than a smattering sport solid fundamentals. In a random group of 100 public companies, are but one, two or five able to earn the best marks?

Say it’s true. Among the companies comprising the national market system (now only about 3,600), say a handful meet criteria every investor, every risk manager, wants. Apply that thinking to a market where index and ETF products number into the thousands – more than the stocks available from which to construct these exchange-traded-funds and the indexes they mimic.

Let’s zoom in our microscope. The Dow Jones US Consumer Services Index aims to track performance of the consumer services sector using 196 components with a mean market capitalization of $9.4 billion. All manner of ETFs are pegged to it, ranging from the ProShares Ultrashort Consumer Services ETF, to IYC, the iShares Dow Jones Consumer Services ETF. (more…)

Be Vigilant

Good to see you folks in Boston last week. But I needed Denver to thaw me out. It was seventy here last Saturday. I washed the car in T-shirt and flip flops.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So it goes at the Nasdaq.

Last autumn the exchange proposed to charge small-cap companies fees of up to $100,000 to incentivize market-makers to trade small-cap ETFs, arguing to the SEC that it would infuse thinly traded securities with liquidity. The rule would have required the SEC, FINRA and the exchange itself to reverse longstanding prohibitions on paying market makers to trade securities. For certain exceptions only (of course, exchanges pay billions of dollars in rebates to “liquidity providers” each year).

The SEC promptly rejected the rule-filing. Now it’s back. See it here.

IR folks, do you know the adage about being wise as serpents but meek as doves? Question what you hear from exchanges that rely on data and transactions – not issuers – for revenue and profits. Take nothing at face value. Examine the facts. (more…)

ETFs and Divine Creation and Redemption

There’s a saying: It’s easier to keep the cat in the bag than to get it back in there once you’ve let it out. Nobody is likely to stuff the Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) cat back in the bag.

Because ETFs are miraculous.

The biblical story of creation is that something came from nothing. Same with the Christian concept of redemption – being bought for a price without rendering equal worth in kind.

Today, we’ll share with occupants of the IR chair the divine story of how ETFs work.

Before ETFs were closed-end mutual funds. Closed end funds (CEFs) are publicly traded securities that IPO to raise capital and pursue a business objective (like any business), in this case an investment thesis. Traded units have a price, and the net asset value rises and falls on the success of managers in achieving objectives. The rub with CEFs is that share value can depart from net asset value – just like stocks often separate from intrinsic business worth.

The investment industry, with support from regulators, devised ETFs to magically remedy through Creation and Redemption this fault of nature. ETF kingpin iShares, owned by Blackrock, illustrates here, with a clever floral analogy (thank you Joe Saluzzi at Themis Trading who alerted us to it). You don’t have to buy individual flowers and face market risks because iShares puts them in a bouquet for you. Great idea. (more…)

Volatility and Small Caps

We’ll spend the bulk of today’s note explaining why small-cap stocks increasingly find their shareholdings dominated by a few large quantitative institutions.

First this on equity markets: Last week we noticed a surge in “volatility trading.” We’ve written before about these tactics that capitalize on volatility as the asset instead of the direction of the markets or a given security.

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