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Equity ETFs Enjoyed Big Inflows in May Despite Geopolitical Risk

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Investors faced several market-moving geopolitical issues in May — driven by uncertainty in the eurozone and contentious trade rhetoric — but still deposited some $23.3 billion in U.S.-listed equity exchange-traded funds, State Street Global Advisors reported this week.

May inflows into equity funds were the second-highest of the year, after January’s $40.5 billion.

State Street noted that flows matched return trends in the U.S. The S&P 500 recorded second-best monthly return this year, up 2.4%.

Fixed income flows slowed in May, as the asset class attracted just $7 billion for the month, well down from April’s $15 billion of inflows. Government short-duration bond ETFs drove fixed income flows, accounting for 45% of May flows.

Commodity funds had outflows of $316 million after a strong April, with precious metals taking a hit. This was off their three- and 12-month inflow averages of $890 million and $1.5 billion.

State Street reported that sentiment was negative on international exposures in May, as monthly outflows occurred for the first time since November 2016. Global returns were flat in May, with international equities declining by 2.3%, led by a 3.5% drop in emerging markets and 1.7% in the eurozone, both of which were affected by trade tensions and geopolitical instability.

Emerging markets experienced outflows of nearly $3 billion. And with governmental crises in Spain and Italy growing worse, funds focused on the eurozone accounted for 80% international regional outflows in May, which totaled $2.7 billion.

“Investors should keep an eye on developments which could spur headline volatility with the understanding it could quickly fade once cooler heads prevail,” State Street said.

On the sector level, technology attracted $4.7 billion in May, increasing this year’s inflow total to $10.2 billion. Energy was the only other sector to surpass the $1 billion inflow mark, attracting $1.4 billion as rising oil prices lifted sentiment.

The financial and consumer discretionary sectors experienced outflows of $671 billion and $165 billion. Real estate, communications and consumer staples also recorded outflows.

— Check out Are Low-Cost Mutual Funds Now Competitive With ETFs? on ThinkAdvisor.


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