Monday, June 5, 2017

Will ETFs Have Liquidity in a Financial Crisis?

Noah Smith has a decent column today asking if it is smart to worry about ETFs.   He appears to be concerned about the liquidity of ETFs which hold bonds, derivatives, and futures.  Personally, I think the concerns also apply to equity ETFs in a Crisis market. 

One means of avoiding liquidity risk is to avoid ETNs which not only are comprised of holdings with significant liquidity risk but also can involve default.

If a individual has an account at Fidelity, Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, etc., they will find that is significantly less expensive to buy/sell an ETF (such as a Vanguard ETF at Fidelity) than a no-load mutual fund (Vanguard fund at Fidelity) with no 12(b)-1 annual expense of another company.  If it cost $75  to buy a mutual fund and only $7.95 to buy an ETF, you are being purposefully discouraged from buying the fund.

It would be imprudent to not investigate ETFs as well as mutual funds depending on where you have your investment accounts. You will look at the bid/ask spread, because the larger the spread the less liquidity. You will look at volume, because the smaller the volume the less liquidity.  You will look at expense, because you want lower expenses.  You will look at the ETF's portfolio for questionable or potentially illiquid or risky holdings.  You would look at performance over different periods of market conditions.  You would look at risk statistics.  You would look at current and historical distributions.  And that would just be the beginning of the investment decision process and choices of investment in comparison or its role within a portfolio.

Obviously, the least expense purchase is done with a Limit Order, but do not be surprised if it fails and you have to decide whether to make a Market Order.   Investing is a methodical process.  The best portfolios are holding portfolios which have elements which go up and down in different market conditions, because most people buy and sell at the wrong times when reacting to a market and lose return over time.  A knowledgeable investor will have buy/sell rules which they rigorously follow.

Print Page

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share This