ESG, cannabis and bitcoin dominated February ETF flows, says TrackInsight

Anaelle Ulbadino, TrackInsight

February data from TrackInsight reveals that ETFs continued their seemingly unstoppable growth trajectory to reach a new global high of USD8 trillion, in assets under management, driven by what it calls ‘exploding flows’ in North American markets and huge investor appetite for ESG products.  

Contributing to this important milestone were ETFs listed in North America which witnessed historic flows of USD95 billion over February, an almost 50 per cent increase month-on-month. There are now 3,200 ETFs listed on North American exchanges with USD5.9 billion in assets, the firm says. 

ESG ETFs, which nearly tripled assets in 2020, saw flows of USD19 billion (9 per cent) over February to reach a new high of USD210 billion in assets, making February the largest single-month in history in terms of ESG ETF flows, according to TrackInsight. 

“With fortuitous timing, the first Bitcoin ETF was launched in North America in February by Purpose Investments. During the month, Bitcoin ETFs saw record-shattering growth with nearly USD1/4 billion in new flows. USD4.5 billion of assets now track Bitcoin through an ETF- a small but growing portion of its USD1 trillion market capitalisation. 

“In contrast, gold ETFs lost their lustre over February as flows went negative, losing USD5 billion for a total of USD186 billion of assets.” 

The firm notes that cannabis ETFs continued to dominate performance with seven of the top 10 best-performing funds of the year targeting this nascent sector. 

Anaelle Ubaldino, Head of ETF Research and Investment Advisory at TrackInsight says: “The flexibility of the ETF wrapper means that an ever-increasing range of ideas, from actively managed strategies to ESG and thematic investments like disruptive tech and Bitcoin, are now easily available to all investors, and many are taking the opportunity to gain exposure to asset classes and strategies that were previously unavailable to them.  

“However, the proliferation of choices, not just in areas like ESG or Bitcoin, but across ETFs in general means investors are faced with a paradox of choice. So, investors must do their homework and look beyond the headlines and media hype when picking an ETF as products that are similar on the surface may be very different when you look under the hood.” 

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