ETF.com Analysis

EEM Catches VWO In Asset Gathering In 2012

December 31, 2012
Share:

Concealed by all the hoopla about iShares 'Core' funds, yesteryear’s star ETF 'EEM' starts shining again.

A record year of ETF inflows and a blossoming price war that dragged a reluctant iShares into the fray is ending on a decidedly surprising note: The pricey iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (NYSEArca: EEM) has matched its much-cheaper rival from Vanguard in asset gathering this year.

In all of 2012, EEM pulled in $10.5 billion—about matching the Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: VWO), which has gathered $10.59 billion this year, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse. EEM may well surpass VWO on 2012's last trading day. VWO is still bigger—$59 billion in assets compared with $48.2 billion for EEM. But it’s key to remember that VWO spent much of the past several years catching and surpassing EEM to become the biggest emerging markets ETF in the world.

VWO achieved that milestone largely because it has been anywhere from 2.5 times to 3.5 times less expensive to own every year for the past several years. Even now, VWO costs 0.20 percent a year, or $20 per $10,000 invested compared with 0.67 percent for iShares. It’s hard to believe, but EEM will become even pricier in 2013, at 0.69 percent, or $69 for every $10,000 invested.

This truly dramatic reversal of asset flow patterns of the past few years began when Valley Forge, Pa.-based Vanguard announced on Oct. 2 that sometime in 2013, it plans to abandon the MSCI index that its Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets Fund and EEM both use, and instead organize the fund around a benchmark created by FTSE.

Almost immediately, EEM started pulling in assets in a way it had rarely if ever done, and the word on the Street was that institutional investors who have grown used to benchmarking performance against MSCI’s family of indexes might not be too keen on changing indexes.

But the incipient signs of a shift in asset flows between EEM and VWO went largely unnoticed for a number of weeks—in part because just two weeks after Vanguard caused a stir in the world of index investing, iShares itself dropped a bomb of its own when it unveiled plans to launch a family of ultra-cheap “Core” funds.

Core Still Waiting To Score

When iShares unveiled its Core lineup of funds in mid-October, many welcomed the move as a viable way for the San Francisco-based unit of BlackRock to seriously compete for dollars from retail investors, a sizable chunk of the investment world long-dominated by Vanguard.

A fair amount of hopeful talk circulated that the newly launched and much cheaper version of EEM, the iShares Core Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEArca: IEMG), might get a leg up in the asset-gathering game against the likes of Vanguard’s VWO and the Schwab Emerging Markets Equity ETF (NYSEArca: SCHE).

After all, the iShares IEMG comes with an annual expense ratio of 0.18 percent—cheaper than VWO’s annual cost of 0.20 percent, though 3 basis points more than Schwab’s SCHE.

 

ETF.COM CHANNELS

Interested in China? Use our China ETFs Channel, library, and ETF screener.

Interested in oil? Use our oil ETFs channel, library and ETF screener!

ETF DAILY DATA

The oil and gas ETF saw net inflows of $135 million on Wednesday, April 27.

The top five issuers all saw net inflows into their exchange-traded products on Wednesday, April 27.

ETF.COM ANALYST BLOGS

By Drew Voros

With the broad equity ideas all taken, issuers look for thinner slices of exposure.

By David Lichtblau

How funds wash away capital gains through create/redeem process.

By Dave Nadig

End investors are the big winners; brokers—not so much.

By Dave Nadig

ETF industry petitions the SEC for market microstructure changes.

ETF INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE

By Adam Patti

After a record-setting year in 2015, investors wonder what 2016 will hold.

By Sprott Asset Management

New fund’s underlying index targets equities sentiment on social media.

By Kristi Kuechler

Avoid taking unrewarded—or unintended—risks.