Biggest Active ETFs By Asset Class

March 19, 2018

The ETF universe is a mostly passively managed space where broad, vanilla, low-cost index ETFs rule. But actively managed funds are growing in number, and today represent about 10% of all U.S.-listed ETFs.

The bulk of the 217 active ETFs in the market competes in the fixed-income space, but active management is found in every asset class. Here’s a look at the biggest, most popular active ETFs in each pocket of the market.

US Fixed-Income ETFs

The majority of the active ETFs in the market are fixed-income strategies, and none is bigger—or even comes close, really—to the PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active ETF (MINT). MINT is the largest active U.S. bond ETF. It’s also the largest active ETF in the market, period.

The fund has a massive $8.3 billion in assets under management (AUM), almost 2.5x the size of the second-largest active fund. MINT is the blockbuster of the active ETF space.

The portfolio is an ultra-short U.S. investment-grade bond portfolio many see as a money-market ETF proxy. MINT is cheap for an active strategy, at just 0.35% in expense ratio—$35 per $10,000 invested—and is highly liquid, trading with a negligible 0.01% average spread.

So far this year alone, MINT has attracted $256 million in fresh net assets, continuing its asset-gathering spree that saw more than $2.4 billion flow into the fund in 2017. Below is the fund’s 12-month performance:



Global Fixed-Income ETFs

The actively managed global fixed-income ETF universe has a new asset leader. The First Trust Preferred Securities & Income ETF (FPE) has surpassed the broad market strategy SPDR DoubleLine Total Return Tactical ETF (TOTL) in terms of assets to land the No. 1 spot in the segment.

FPE, which focuses on the global corporate bond space and invests primarily in preferred stocks, is now a $3.5 billion fund. It’s the largest active global fixed-income ETF, and the second-largest active ETF in any segment—second only to MINT.

So far this year, FPE has gathered more than $284 million in net creations, an asset haul that has come on the heels of $1.65 billion in net inflows in 2017.

FPE boasts great liquidity, trading with spreads averaging 0.05%, and costs 0.85% in expense ratio—not cheap, but within the normal range seen among active funds. The fund is up 7% over the last 12 months.



US Equity ETFs

The First Trust North American Energy Infrastructure Fund (EMLP) is the largest U.S. equity active ETF, with $2.2 billion in AUM. It invests in energy infrastructure master limited partnerships (MLPs).

The fund costs 0.95% in expense ratio, and trades with an average spread of 0.05%, putting its total cost of ownership at around $100 per $10,000 invested.

EMLP is not as much a pure-play infrastructure MLP approach as it is a diversified, complex basket that goes beyond MLPs in order to meet 1940 Act restrictions on the amount of MLP exposure an ETF can have. To that end, EMLP also invests in things like pipelines and utilities structured as C-corporations, as well as Canadian firms that used to be royalty trusts, according to FactSet data.

EMLP has attracted $90 million in net inflows so far in 2018, adding to the $772 million in net creations seen in 2017. The fund is down nearly 9% over the last year.




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