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Where’s the money flowing in the ETF world? ETFs have become a big industry and I’m sure it won’t be long before we have more ETFs than stocks. Our analysis tracks essentially all ETFs over $1 billion in assets to see where flows are heading. It’s not a complete picture, but it speaks to visible trends.

Read: Look at sectors when constructing ETFs

The ETFs we track include $1.3 trillion in equities, $261 billion in bonds and $48 billion in commodities. We use constant pricing, so this is money flows, not market appreciation or declines.

Equity ETFs saw 30% inflows, bonds about half of that and almost 40% of assets pulled out of commodities.

Digging deeper into equities, the big winner was large cap U.S. companies with $136 billion over the past two years, with $70 billion of this coming in the last six months. There were $70 billion inflows into international developed market ETFs but net outflows of $23 billion from emerging markets.

The final interesting trend is on the bond side. Remember the taper tantrum in May-June 2013? That was when money started coming out of corporate bond ETFs. However, this trend reversed throughout 2014 as money came back in. Even with recent declines in the high yield space over concerns about energy exposure and default risk, money has been flowing in.

Question of the week

Greece is making headlines again, should investors be concerned?

On December 29, the Greek parliament failed to elect a new president. The Constitution requires that the Greeks go back to the polls on January 25 to elect a new Hellenic Parliament. Considering the austerity measures implemented in Greece over the past few years, it’s no surprise that Syriza, the anti-establishment party, is leading the polls.

There’s speculation Syriza’s motives could include reversing austerity measures or possibly even a Greek exit — a “Grexit,” as some are calling it – from the Eurozone. Such uncertainty has pushed Greek government bond yields higher while most other Eurozone countries see their yields either stable or declining.

Read: Why Greece won’t leave Eurozone

So, are we about to go through another “Greek Debt Crisis” and are the implications the same as they were prior to the bailouts in 2010 and 2012?

We would say no. While we certainly are not dismissing the risk of economic and financial fallout if Greece required yet another bailout or left the Eurozone altogether, we do believe the region is in a better position to absorb the risk if the Greek elections produce undesirable results and the country’s finances are again mismanaged. The question that must be answered is who actually owns Greek public debt now after all the bailouts and restructuring? Not an easy question to answer, but Bloomberg took a stab at estimating the difference between public and private owners and what the exposures are among fellow Eurozone governments (all members participated in the European Financial Stability Facility which helped supply Greece’s second bailout.)

Bloomberg concludes that approximately 17% of Greek debt is in private hands, which is good news for European banks as this number is lower than levels seen prior to the Greek debt crisis at the beginning of the decade. One of the problems back then was financial contagion risk as European banks owned Greek debt, but were forced to take write-downs.

Read: Eurozone off to weak start in 2015

According to Bloomberg, the remaining 83% of Greek debt is estimated to be owned by Eurozone member governments (62%), the International Monetary Fund (10%), the European Central Bank (8%) and the Central Bank of Greece (3%).

While it’s true that Germany has the greatest absolute exposure to Greek debt at 60 billion Euros, countries such as Portugal, Cyprus and Slovenia are in the worst position to absorb any type of Greek default. Again, these are risks that we can’t dismiss, but they’re not as daunting compared to what we saw in 2012 and could be alleviated to some degree if the European Central Bank embraces quantitative easing at its next meeting on January 22.

Gareth Watson is the Vice President, Investment Management & Research at Richardson GMP in Toronto. This team of research experts is responsible for monitoring and interpreting economic, geo-political situations, current market environments and trends.
@Gareth_RGMP
Originally published on Advisor.ca

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