Roaring ahead

IT IS a victory for the humble—for the investment equivalent of a puttering hatchback over a gleaming Porsche. The exchange-traded-fund (ETF) industry is now bigger than the more established business of hedge funds. Assets in the global ETF industry were $2.971 trillion at the end of June, according to ETFGI, a research firm, $2 billion ahead of the hedgies’ $2.969 trillion, as calculated by Hedge Fund Research (see chart 1). In 1999 the ETF industry was less than a tenth the size of its ritzier rival.

ETFs are pooled funds, quoted on stockmarkets, that are designed to replicate the performance of an asset class. They usually do so by tracking a benchmark such as the S&P 500 (for American equities). Once the fund is set up, portfolio changes are mechanical, responding to changes in the underlying benchmark. Funds can track almost anything from the gold price to commercial property. Some have extremely low expenses...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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