ETF Assets Grow by 50% in 2009

The U.S. exchange-traded fund (ETF) industry closed out 2009 with $785 billion in assets under management, according to Morningstar Direct's latest Fund Flows Update.
This is up from $744 billion at the end of November (see “Taxable Bond ETFs Still King of the Hill”) and $533 billion at the end of 2008, and represents year-over-year total ETF asset growth of nearly 50%. The report said 40% of this asset growth is attributable to net inflows over the past year, while the remaining 60% was due to strong market performance.

Despite being the only broad asset class to show net outflows in 2009, U.S. stock ETFs closed out the year with nearly $20 billion in net inflows in December, according to the Morningstar data. Helping bolster the category’s flows was the SPDRs SPY, which attracted more than $11.2 billion in net new assets last month. However, Morningstar noted that excluding SPY, the U.S. stock category would have actually shown net inflows of roughly $6.2 billion for the 2009 calendar year.

Taxable bond ETFs closed 2009 as the most popular asset class of the year. The report said Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) and short-duration ETFs continued to be the top asset gatherers. Morningstar attributed the stampede into TIPS funds to investors’ concerns over future inflation. This fear of potential inflation led investors to steer $8.4 billion of net new assets into iShares Barclays TIPS Bond TIP.

Investors continued to pile into emerging markets last month, as the Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock ETF VWO and iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index EEM saw net inflows of about $1 billion and $420.1 million in December, respectively. For the 2009 calendar year, VWO took in $9 billion in net new assets, while EEM brought in approximately $4.4 billion.

Demand for gold and other inflationary hedges bode well for commodity ETFs, Morningstar said. SPDR Gold Shares GLD, which saw roughly $11 billion in total net inflows in 2009 and currently has more than $40.2 billion in assets under management, was the most popular ETF last year, in terms of total asset flows. Along the same lines of the rush into TIPS, GLD was a major beneficiary of investors seeking to hedge out the risk of inflation stemming from monetary easing by central banks around the world, according to the report.

The Morningstar report is available at