When commodity exchange traded funds (ETFs) were on a bull run this summer, London-based ETF Securities was right there with its line of funds aimed squarely at the sector.
The provider, which actually runs products known as exchange traded commodities (ETCs), is the first to launch funds targeted at gold and oil. While oil has stepped sharply back off its July record highs, gold still manages to draw investor interest as a safe-haven instrument.
While they might share somewhat similar names and do have some similarities, one key difference is that ETCs are securities rather than funds. Another is that ETCs have no maturity date.
Exchange traded notes (ETNs) are another animal altogether, backed by the credit of the issuer. There have been some issues with ETNs in recent weeks, as a number of financial institutions have either gone bankrupt or have been taken over my the government.
One quality they all share without fail is their ability to trade all day on an exchange like a stock would, hence the names.
According to a recent webcast in which Director Hector McNeil explained the difference between the various types of exchange traded products, there are 129 ETCs ETF Securities provides. They give a range of exposures, including physical, classic, forward, leveraged and short. The five segments of these funds are listed on five exchanges throughout Europe.
Since the provider started up two years ago with $60 million in assets, the number of assets has ballooned to $8 billion. That's off a bit from the assets in the middle of the commodities boom, when they stood at $10.5 billion, but ETF Securities is still Europe's largest ETF provider.
The webcast points out that the largest growth area for the ETCs has been in the physically backed segment. After all, they offer investors a means of investing in physical commodities without having to find storage space for the commodity or take delivery of it. A full 69% of the assets are in physically backed metals securities.
ETF Securities also announced today that it will fully collateralize its Commodity Securities products, which suspended trading last month after the near-collapse of insurer American International Group (AIG). The collateralization should largely eliminate the credit risk inherent in the old structure, reports Index Universe.
updated Oct 11, 2008
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