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Mutual Fund Assets Start Year With a Growth Spurt: Cerulli

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Mutual fund assets rose by 8.6% to some $14.8 trillion as of the end of February, but still below the $15.4 trillion asset level in September, according to a new Cerulli report. Net flows added $36.7 billion to mutual fund coffers in January and $29.2 billion in February.

ETF assets have now fully recovered from the fourth-quarter downturn, after having risen to $3.72 trillion during February, according to the report. This was a new all-time high, surpassing the $3.71 trillion amassed in September. The January and February equity market rebounds helped push ETF assets up by 10% for the year.

Both active and passive mutual funds experienced positive net flows in February for the second month in a row, Cerulli reported. Active assets climbed back over the $11 trillion mark in January, and rose again in February, ending the month up by 1.7% at $11.2 trillion. Passive assets increased by 3% in February to nearly $7.3 trillion.

The report said that over the last 12 months, market share, assets and revenue of U.S. equity mutual funds continued to grow, thanks to recently revived equity performance, even though the asset class experienced net negative flows. Net flows, it said, have instead favored fixed income mutual funds, with a preference toward active management.

Cerulli said an increasing amount of mutual fund net flows and assets were becoming concentrated among low-cost share classes that often strip out distribution fees (12b-1 fees) and accounting/recordkeeping fees (sub-TA fees).

It noted that Fidelity’s product platform recently endured criticism for a 15 basis point “infrastructure fee,” which is levied on managers whose products’ 12b-1 and sub-TA fees do not meet 15 basis points.

Cerulli’s analysis showed that international equity ETFs’ assets as a share of total ETF assets fell from 22% to 19.6% over the last 12 months. It said this drop in market share could be entirely ascribed to international equity markets, as net flows into the asset class were positive during the period.

The report noted that an increasing focus on ETF product rationalization appeared to be underway among the largest issuers. It said iShares, Vanguard and State Street had not added any new product so far this year, while Invesco has closed 16 ETFs over the past two months.

In addition, it said, WisdomTree announced that it would close eight funds in March.

— Check out Is BlackRock Quietly Building a Wealth Management Colossus? on ThinkAdvisor.


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