Basics of Electronically Traded Funds (ETFs)

- as used in Financial Planning and Investment Management

Trendline Financial  Solutions is a Financial Planner Firm offering Financial Planning and Investment Management with offices in Southold and West Hempstead, NY

Trendline Financial Solutions, as part of the Financial Planning and Investment strategies, utilizes ETFs in client portfolios for a number of reasons. I am printing an article from the American Stock Exchange which describes Basics of ETF investment dated February 28, 2006. I welcome comments if you find the article educational.

Exchange traded funds offer individual investors:

-advantages of stocks and mutual funds combined

-lower fees (ordinary brokerage commissions apply)

-lower capital gains taxes

In recent years, these unique features and benefits have helped exchange traded funds explode in popularity and emerge as one of the most flexible, multi-purpose investment vehicles available. Ever since the American Stock Exchange pioneered the concept of a tradable basket of stocks with the creation of the Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipt (SPDR) in 1993, exchange traded funds have evolved into an entirely new investment category. Today, the number of ETFs listed and traded at the Amex has grown to more than 100 and continues to grow—not only in the number of products and their variety—but also in terms of assets and market value.

What are exchange traded funds?

Exchange traded funds (ETFs) are index funds or trusts* that are listed on an exchange and can be traded intraday. Investors can buy or sell shares in the collective performance of an entire stock or bond portfolio as a single security. Exchange traded funds add the flexibility, ease, and liquidity of stock trading to the benefits of traditional index fund investing.

The American Stock Exchange lists ETFs on more than 100 broad stock market, stock industry sector, international stock, and U.S. Treasury, and corporate bond indexes, providing a wide array of investment opportunities. ETFs provide a simple and effective way to invest in equity markets worldwide and the U.S. bond market. Investors can establish long-term investments in the market performance of the leading companies in the leading industries in the United States or abroad, or tailor asset allocations using diversified investments in stocks in particular industries or countries or in U.S. bonds.

The advantages of ETFs:

Tax efficiency
ETFs, like index funds in general, tend to offer greater tax benefits because they generate fewer capital gains due to low turnover of the securities that comprise the portfolio. Generally, an ETF only sells securities to reflect changes in its underlying index. Exchange trading of ETFs further enhances their tax efficiency. Investors who want to liquidate shares in an ETF simply sell them to other investors through exchange trading. Because of this unique structure, ETFs are not required to sell securities to meet investor cash redemptions, potentially generating capital gains tax liability for remaining investors. Keep in mind that the sale of an ETF will generate capital gains/losses for the investor liquidating shares.

Lower costs
Expenses can have a significant impact on returns for investors. ETFs, in general, have significantly lower annual expense ratios than other investment products. ETFs are less likely to experience high management fees because they are index-based, not “actively” managed. And, since they trade on an exchange, ETFs are insulated from the costs of having to buy and sell securities to accommodate shareholder purchases and redemptions. Of course, an investor selling ETF shares may realize capital gains or losses, as with common stocks. Purchases or sales of exchange traded funds are subject to brokerage commissions.

ETFs are designed to generally replicate the holdings and correspond to the performance and yield of their underlying index.

Buying and selling flexibility
Because they are exchange traded, ETFs can be:
-bought and sold at intraday market prices
-purchased on margin
-sold short, even on a downtick (unlike common stocks)
-traded using stop orders and limit orders, which allow investors to specify the price points at
which they are willing to trade

All day tracking and trading
ETFs are priced and traded throughout the day, and are not restricted to once-a-day trading at the end of the day. And because the pricing of ETFs is continuous during trading hours, investors will always be able to obtain up-to-the-minute share prices from their broker or financial adviser. For delayed quote information on Amex-listed ETFs, click here.

Because each ETF is comprised of a basket of securities, it inherently provides diversification across an entire index. Additionally, the expanding universe of ETFs available at the American Stock Exchange offers exposure to a diverse variety of markets, including:
broad-based equity indexes (such as total market, large-cap growth, and small-cap value)
broad-based international and country-specific equity indexes (such as Europe, EAFE, and Japan)
industry sector-specific equity indexes (such as healthcare, energy, and real estate)
U.S. bond indexes (such as long-term Treasury bonds and corporate bonds)

Dividend opportunities
Dividends paid by companies and interest paid on bonds held in an ETF are distributed to ETF holders, less expenses, on a pro rata basis. Of course, not all companies will pay dividends. Based on past performance, few, if any, distributions can be expected from certain ETFs. There may also be opportunities for reinvestment of distributions.

Wide array of investment strategies
Investors can capitalize on the convenience and flexibility of ETFs to pursue a wide variety of investment strategies.

Core investment — Investors can use ETFs as a core investment for their portfolio. The purchase of shares in a single ETF can provide broad market exposure of a portfolio of stocks or bonds for long-term holding that is easy to establish, easy to track, inexpensive, and tax efficient.

Portfolio diversification — ETFs cover virtually every segment of the equity market and several segments of the U.S. bond market, providing an easy and convenient way to adjust the investment mix of a core portfolio.

Hedging — Exchange traded funds can be purchased on margin and sold short (even on a downtick), which has opened up risk management strategies for individual investors that were once available only to large institutions. For example, ETFs can be sold short to hedge a core stock portfolio or interest rate fluctuations. This allows investors to keep their portfolio intact while protecting them from market losses. In a declining stock market or rising interest rate environment, profits from a short position can offset some of the losses in a portfolio. (Investors are required to make arrangements to borrow securities before selling short.) Listed options, available on some ETFs, also offer opportunities for additional hedging or to increase income. Investors should contact their broker regarding initial and maintenance margin requirements. To view a list of ETF options that are listed at the Amex, click here.

Cash management — ETFs have often been used to “equitize” cash, providing a way for investors to put cash to work in the market or maintain allocation targets while determining where to invest for the longer term.

Rebalancing — Investors can adjust ETF positions at any time throughout the trading day, without redemption fees or short-term restrictions. Again, usual brokerage commissions will apply.

Tax loss strategy — An investor can sell a security that is underperforming and claim a tax loss but retain exposure to its sector by investing in an ETF. Consult a tax advisor about a tax loss strategy.

Risks and other considerations

ETF shareholders are subject to risks similar to those of holders of other diversified portfolios. A primary consideration is that the general level of stock or bond prices may decline, thus affecting the value of an equity or fixed income exchange traded fund, respectively. This is because an equity (or bond) ETF represents interest in a portfolio of stocks (or bonds). When interest rates rise, bond prices generally will decline, which will adversely affect the value of fixed income ETFs. Moreover, the overall depth and liquidity of the secondary market may also fluctuate.

An exchange traded sector fund may also be adversely affected by the performance of that specific sector or group of industries on which it is based.

International investments may involve risk of capital loss from unfavorable fluctuations in currency values, differences in generally accepted accounting principles, or economic, political instability in other nations.

Although exchange traded funds are designed to provide investment results that generally correspond to the price and yield performance of their respective underlying indexes, the trusts may not be able to exactly replicate the performance of the indexes because of trust expenses and other factors.


Peter B. Owen

1675 Cedar Beach Road, Southold, NY 11971

223 Parker Avenue, West Hempstead, NY 11552

21 West Mill Drive, Great Neck, NY 11021

Phone: (516)317-2860

Email: info@trendlinefinancialsolutions————–

Website :

Trendline has Financial Planning and Investment Management offices in Southold, Great Neck and West Hempstead, serving all of Nassau County, Suffolk County and Queens County. Convenient access for Financial Planning clients in Garden City, Rockville Centre, Manhassett, Port Washington, Mattituck, Greenport, Jamesport


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