ETFs Close Out Year With $2.56 Trillion In Assets

January 03, 2017

The official numbers are in. As we touched on last week, flows into ETFs were at record levels in 2016, according to FactSet data. For the year as a whole, $287.5 billion came into U.S.-listed ETFs, the most ever. The month of December alone saw inflows of $61.5 billion, also a record. Total U.S.-listed ETF assets now stand at $2.56 trillion.

Incidentally, the ETF records weren't just limited to the U.S. According to BlackRock, global ETF inflows totaled $375 billion in 2016, surpassing 2015's $348 billion. 

Every Segment But Currency ETFs Had Inflows
Of 2016's record inflows, the majority went into U.S. equity ETFs, but a few other segments saw notable inflows as well. Total creations for U.S. equity ETFs were $162.5 billion. That was followed by $81.7 billion for U.S. fixed-income ETFs; $15.8 billion for international equity ETFs; $10.9 billion for international fixed-income ETFs; and $10.4 billion for commodity ETFs.

The only segment to see outflows was currency ETFs, with redemptions of $492 million for the year. 

Broad Market ETFs Dominate
Broad market ETFs dominated the top 10 list when it came to flows for individual funds. The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) saw a whopping $25.4 billion worth of inflows in 2016 as investors embraced the world's largest ETF for U.S. equity exposure. Two other ETFs tracking the same venerable index also made the top three: the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) and the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund (VOO), with inflows of $13.2 billion and $11.6 billion, respectively.

In terms of performance, the three S&P 500 ETFs ended the year up by about 12% each.

Meanwhile, the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) and the iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) were the only two fixed-income ETFs to make the top 10, with creations of $11.3 billion and $6.8 billion, respectively. AGG had a total return of 2.4% for the year, while TIP returned 4.7%.

Four international equity-focused ETFs also made the cut: the Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF (VEA), with inflows of $11 billion; the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG), with inflows of $7.4 billion; the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO), with inflows of $6.8 billion; and the iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (IEFA) , with inflows of $6.2 billion.

The only commodity ETF on the list was the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), which ended the year with net creations of $7.3 billion. The ETF, which lost nearly half its inflows in the last few months of the year, ended 2016 with a total return of 8%.

Europe & Japan ETFs Out Of Favor
On the outflows side, the WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (HEDJ) was the biggest loser of 2016. Its $7.8 billion of outflows contrasts with the $13.9 billion of inflows that the fund saw in 2015.

Other Europe ETFs also fell out of favor in 2016, including the iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF (EZU), with outflows of $6.7 billion; and the Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK), with outflows of $3.5 billion. 

Another country to fall out of investors' favor was Japan. The WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity Fund (DXJ) and the iShares MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ) saw outflows of $5.6 billion and $4.3 billion, respectively.

The tech-heavy PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ), with outflows of $2.5 billion and the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI), with outflows of $2.3 billion, were two other funds of note to make the top outflows list.

For a full list of this year's biggest winners and losers, see the tables below:
 

Top Gainers (2016)

Ticker Name Issuer Net Flows ($,mm) AUM ($M) % of AUM December 2016 Net Flows($,M)
SPY SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust State Street Global Advisors 25,410.60 225,857.92 12.68% 13,854.60
IVV iShares Core S&P 500 ETF BlackRock 13,181.35 91,014.77 16.94% 2,664.81
VOO Vanguard S&P 500 Index Fund Vanguard 11,596.48 56,744.18 25.69% 1,258.08
AGG iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF BlackRock 11,297.74 41,454.43 37.46% 354.21
VEA Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF Vanguard 10,979.44 40,081.35 37.73% 2,037.01
IEMG iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF BlackRock 7,447.19 17,726.29 72.45% 949.05
GLD SPDR Gold Trust State Street Global Advisors 7,331.31 30,280.33 31.95% -2,282.92
TIP iShares TIPS Bond ETF BlackRock 6,820.00 21,267.19 47.21% 76.64
VWO Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF Vanguard 6,752.39 43,886.75 18.18% 432.02
IEFA iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF BlackRock 6,245.86 15,689.10 66.14% 1,301.86

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