iShares Files For Volatility-Focused ETFs

January 24, 2011

iShares, BlackRock’s exchange-traded funds unit and the world’s largest purveyor of ETFs, filed paperwork for two ETFs that, by relying on a volatility screen, would offer investors a new twist on the MSCI USA and the MSCI EAFE indexes in an effort to mitigate risk associated with the widely known MSCI benchmarks.

The iShares MSCI USA Minimum Volatility Index Fund and the iShares EAFE Minimum Volatility Index Fund are both designed to weight securities based on lower absolute volatility as a way of minimizing risk exposure.

Products designed to manage volatility have grown in popularity in the choppy recovery since the market crash of 2008-2009. The most successful, the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEArca: VXX), has assets of $1.26 billion.  However, VXX and products like it are more tactical, while the planned iShares ETFs seek to hold stocks that steer clear of the worst volatility.

iShares’ planned U.S.-focused fund will track the MSCI USA Minimum Volatility Index, which is built off of the market-capitalization-weighted MSCI USA Index, but applies a rules-based methodology to determine the weight of the securities based on risk.

The index tracks the largest U.S. equity securities—a universe that includes the top 85 percent by market capitalization across multiple U.S. stock exchanges—that have lower absolute volatility. As of Dec. 1, it comprised 128 securities, with information technology, health care and consumer staples leading its sector allocations.

Similarly, but with an international flavor, the iShares EAFE Minimum Volatility Index Fund will track an index of similar name comprising international equities with lower absolute volatility. It too applies a rules-based methodology to the MSCI EAFE Index to determine the weight of each security with the goal of minimizing the total risk of the index, the filing said.

The index provides exposure to Europe, Australasia, the Middle East and the Far East, holding securities from 19 different developed economies as of Dec. 1. Financials, consumer staples and health care topped the portfolio’s sector allocations.

Both funds will track their respective benchmarks through a representative sampling strategy, meaning they will not own all of the securities in the underlying indexes. BlackRock Fund Advisors is the advisor for the funds.

The filings disclosed neither planned ticker symbols nor fees for the funds.

 

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