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Fidelity Files for No-Fee International Index Fund, Cuts Other Fees

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Fidelity Investments is cutting fees again, this time to zero.

In a revised filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the firm is registering a Flex International Index Fund to track foreign stocks that will be available free to selected investors “in certain fee-based accounts.” The filing explains that “managed account clients, retirement plans, plan sponsors and/or plan participants pay a wrap fee that covers investment advisory and administrative services.”

The fund expects to get paid by lending securities to institutional investors.

It  will invest at least 80% of assets in securities included in the MSCI All Country World Index, excluding those in the USA Index and in depository receipts representing securities included in the index, according to the SEC filing.

In addition to the no-fee fund filing, Fidelity has reduced fees on three actively managed bond ETFs from 45 basis points to 36 basis point, effective April 1. They are the Fidelity Corporate Bond ETF (FCOR), Fidelity Limited Term Bond ETF (FLTB) and Fidelity Total Bond ETF (FBND). All three ETFs were launched in October 2014 as Fidelity’s first actively managed ETFs.

These fee cuts, first reported by Citywire, were confirmed by a Fidelity spokeswoman. She told ThinkAdvisor that the cuts mean these ETFs are now even more competitively priced than they had been. Fidelity, like other asset managers, is responding to the fee compression that is spreading throughout the industry for both active and passive funds.

(Related: Fidelity Trims Index Fund Fees, Challenging Vanguard)

In July Fidelity announced it was cutting fees on 14 of 20 index mutual funds, including four bond funds: Fidelity US Bond Index, Fidelity Short-Term Treasury Bond Index, Fidelity Intermediate Treasury Bond Index and Fidelity Long-Term Treasury Bond Index, claiming it would make some index funds even cheaper than Vanguard’s.

And in February of last year. Fidelity slashed trading commissions $3 to $4.95 per trade, which Schwab soon matched.

(Related: Fidelity Rolls Out New Bond Fund and 2 Lower-Priced Share Classes)

More recently, in October, Fidelity launched a short-term bond index fund with four different fund classes whose fees ranged from 3 to 14 basis points, and it added lower priced institutional share classes for three existing bond index funds: Fidelity Short-Term Treasury Index Fund, Fidelity Intermediate Term Treasury Index Fund and Fidelity Intermediate Term Treasury Index Fund.

Fidelity along with most asset managers is cutting fees to maintain assets at a time when fund flows are declining for actively managed funds, especially actively managed stock funds.

According to Morningstar’s latest fund flow report, actively managed U.S. equity funds had net outflows of almost $221 billion over the past year ended Feb. 28, while actively managed taxable bond funds had inflows of almost $180 billion.

Morningstar’s annual fund fee survey, published last May, showed that the asset-weighted average net expense ratio of all U.S. funds fell to 0.57% in 2016, down from 0.61% in 2015 and 0.65% in 2013. Taxable bond fund fees fell to an average 0.48% from 0.57% in 2013.

According to its annual report for 2017, released several weeks ago, assets under management at Fidelity rose 15% to $2.45 trillion, but the firm lost $47 billion in net withdrawals from actively managed stock funds. Fidelity said it had it had increased AUM in nonmutual fund products such as ETFs and separately managed accounts.

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