On the Internet: Exchange-Traded Funds
by CI Staff
Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have become a popular investment vehicle for those looking to invest outside of the open-ended mutual fund arena. An ETF is a fund that tracks an index but is traded like a stock. There are now even ETFs that track the value of commodities such as gold and silver, with copper a possibility in the future. ETFs do not track actively managed mutual funds because most of these funds only disclose holdings a few times a year. Instead they track indexes by bundling all of the securities in the index.
ETFs can be bought and sold throughout the trading day and investors can do just about anything with an ETF that they can do with a stock, for example, short selling. Many investors prefer ETFs to traditional mutual funds because of their tax efficiency, low costs and liquidity. The first ETF was created in 1993 and was called the Standard and Poor’s Depositary Receipt (SPDR). It tracks the S&P 500 index.
The Web sites below provide free or reasonably priced data on ETFs. Some of the data comes via fund sponsors while other data is provided by independent sources.
ETFConnect provides a wealth of data on ETFs as well as closed-end mutual funds. A closed-end mutual fund is traded on a stock exchange. It allows fund investors to view daily pricing data, search for funds, track portfolios, create charts and much more. The site is sponsored by Nuveen Investments and was recently redesigned in February of 2006.
The Daily Pricing section of ETFConnect breaks the closed-end funds and ETFs into broad categories—equity, fixed income and other—then into more narrow categories—taxable and tax exempt—and finally into specific groups including national, global and individual state funds. Once a fund category has been chosen, a list is generated providing data on the funds including ticker symbol, fund sponsor, net asset value, price change, the latest dividend date and dividend amount, current market yield and the taxable equivalent yield. The funds can be sorted by any of the items in the list in ascending or descending order. Clicking a fund’s ticker symbol takes users to a brief summary of key fund statistics. The fund’s investment objective, a 12-month performance chart, annual performance since inception, a list of the fund’s holdings and key fundamental data are all provided.
Investors can screen for funds with similar characteristics in the Find A Fund section and search for a specific fund by entering its ticker symbol or CUSIP. The Multifund Search allows users to search by asset class, sector, industry, region and fund sponsor. The results are listed in alphabetical order but can be sorted by any of the listed criteria (ticker, fund name, share price, expense ratio, volume and yield). Users can also compare funds side-by-side. Funds can be searched by fund sponsor or sorted in descending order by premium, discount, yield, size and year-to-date performance.
ETFConnect has interactive charting provided by MarketWatch in the Tools section. The charts allow investors to compare multiple funds on one chart as well as compare to an index. The chart type, timeframe and a few technical indicators are all customizable. An Education Center has helpful information for those new to ETF investing. A glossary, a list of frequently asked questions and basic information about ETF investing are all provided.
Access to this site is free.
American Stock Exchange
The American Stock Exchange (Amex) lists over 100 ETFs, making it the largest marketer of exchange-traded funds. Amex.com’s ETF section provides valuable information on its ETF offerings as well as educational tools and advice. The Market Summary section shows all Amex’s listed ETFs along with price, performance and volume data. Funds hitting new highs and new lows are highlighted. The Product Information section supplies a description of the fund, performance statistics, price charts, a list of holdings and fund distributions for each fund. Investors can also access newly listed ETFs.
Amex.com offers numerous helpful tools including an ETF screener and various performance and pricing calculators. The ETF screener allows searching by issuer, investment style, category, expense ratio and performance data. A total return calculator makes figuring individual returns simple by entering purchase or sale price, number of shares and commissions paid. Recent news headlines related to ETFs are grouped by date with links to full articles. An Education section provides a glossary and a list of frequently asked questions. Access to the site is free.
iShares are ETFs sponsored by Barclays Global Investments. iShares track popular indexes including Dow Jones, Cohen & Steers, Goldman Sachs, Lehman, Morningstar, Standard & Poor’s and Russell. The site provides a one-page summary of each fund that includes performance figures, top holdings, a prospectus and information on trading the fund.
A fund screener lets users search for funds holding a specific stock or search by sector, performance, price, price-earnings ratio, beta, turnover and expense ratio. An ETF Allocator sponsored by Dow Jones allows investors to create portfolios of ETFs based on the Dow Jones US Sector and Total Market Indexes. Simply enter the amount of investable assets and the desired allocation. Additionally, iShares offers a multitude of charts showing returns, premiums and discounts, and Morningstar style category.
This site is free.
In addition to its comprehensive tools and data for stocks and mutual funds, Morningstar offers a section dedicated to exchange-traded funds. Investors have free access to an ETF Screener, a glossary, relevant articles, commentary and E-newsletters. The ETF Screener allows you to search 200 ETFs by category, fund family and various performance measures. The site lists the most popular ETFs based on trading volume. It provides a quick look at important data on each fund including its Morningstar rating, performance data, risk measures, holdings and fees and expenses. These reports can be printed and E-mailed as well. Access to these tools is free.
NASDAQ offers data on the NASDAQ 100 Index Tracking Stock (QQQ) as well as other exchange-traded funds. The site shows the biggest winners and losers of the day based on price performance as well as the most active ETFs of the day by volume. The ETF Compare tool allows users to compare multiple funds based on performance and volume over time periods ranging from one month to inception. An ETF Screener offers five categories for screening: size, style (growth, blend, value or international), return since inception, type (broad based, sector or international) and price range.
A profile for each fund is powered by Morningstar. Key statistics such as return, ratings, risk, holdings and annual performance are provided.
This site is free.
Smart Money offers an ETF tracker, screener, a comparison tool and in-depth data on individual exchange-traded funds. The ETF Tracker lets users view all of the ETFs tracked by the site in a table with price and volume data. To learn more about a specific fund, users click the ticker symbol. Smart Money provides the typical data on each fund: historical performance, volume, price, risk measures, top holdings, charts and relevant news. Real-time quotes are provided to Smart Money Select members.
The site’s ETF Screener offers over 50 criteria for screening 225 ETFs. Criteria include basic fund information, price and volume statistics, historical growth rates, dividend data, expenses, and risk and valuation measures. Results of the screen are generated in a table with the ability to sort by multiple criteria. ETF Compare allows members to compare funds side by side using numerous data fields, while the ETF Map tracks price movements of funds over a broad set of indexes.
Access to all of the ETF data is free after registration. A Smart Money Select membership costs $5.95 per month.
Yahoo! Finance provides users with a good deal of free data on exchange-traded funds. A featured list of top-performing funds is compiled and updated regularly. The site lists the biggest price gainers, the funds with the lowest price-earnings ratios and funds with the highest trading volume. Performance data, risk measures, technical charts and real-time prices are offered on each ETF.
The site’s ETF Education Center is a great place for first-time ETF investors to learn the basics of this investment type. A list of frequently asked questions, a glossary and articles and discussions on the merits of investing in ETFs are all included.
This site is free.