The Next Investing Frontier: Liquid Alternative ETFs
Think back to your desires five years ago. As you’ve changed and the world around you has shifted, chances are your desires have also evolved. Similar progressions can be seen in the investing realm.
As investors have become more sophisticated, they have sought securities that provide:
- Enhanced transparency
- Lower fees
- Increased liquidity
This changing behavior paved the way for emerging investment opportunities, including liquid alternative ETFs. In today’s infographic from IndexIQ, we explain what liquid alternative ETFs are, explore their benefits, and discuss how to use them in a portfolio.
What Are Liquid Alternative ETFs?
In order to define liquid alternative ETFs, it’s easier to break the term into two parts: liquid alternatives and ETFs.
Liquid alternatives are baskets of securities with exposure to alternative strategies. They can be accessed through ETFs, mutual funds, or closed-end funds with daily liquidity. Alternative investments are any asset that is not a stock or bond, such as commodities, real estate, or private equity.
ETFs are baskets of securities that trade on an exchange. They can contain various asset classes including stocks, bonds, commodities, or a mixture.
The benefits of ETFs have been combined with the benefits of liquid alternatives to form a relatively new investment opportunity: liquid alternative ETFs.
Liquid alternative ETFs are the subset of liquid alternatives that trade on an exchange. However, they are not widely used yet. In a recent survey, only 8% of institutional investors currently use them, or have used them in the past. Why aren’t more investors adding them to their portfolios?
Misconceptions about Liquidity
Simply put, there’s limited usage because investors lack understanding of the asset class. In fact, institutional investors view “liquidity during market stress” as the #1 disadvantage of liquid alternative ETFs.
In reality, liquid alternative ETFs are sufficiently liquid in most market conditions. ETFs benefit from two layers of liquidity: the liquidity of the ETF itself, and the liquidity of the underlying securities, known as implied liquidity.
Implied liquidity is accessed through market makers, typically large banks, that facilitate investor fund flows. If there is:
- Excess demand: Market makers buy the underlying securities, and sell ETF units.
- Excess supply: Market makers buy ETF units, and sell the underlying securities.
When investors sell ETF units for extended periods of time, market makers have many options at their disposal:
- Sell the individual underlying securities, adjusting their pricing to ensure profitability
- Hold ETF units and their underlying securities until the selling pressure dies down
- Hedge their risk by purchasing derivative instruments or ETFs from other market segments
This range of options ensures liquid alternative ETFs remain liquid, even in volatile markets.
Liquid alternative ETFs offer several key benefits for investors looking to branch out from their traditional portfolios.
The average expense ratio for all 55 U.S. alternative ETFs is just 1.04%. In comparison, hedge funds charge an average management fee of 1.3%—plus a 20-30% performance fee.
In contrast to some alternative investments, liquid alternative ETFs provide a high degree of transparency in terms of investment strategy, holdings, reporting, and fees.
Liquid alternative ETFs have exhibited low correlations with traditional asset classes. Historically, this has provided increased diversification and mitigated risk.
In addition to their many benefits, liquid alternative ETFs are quite versatile in their applications.
Liquid Alternative ETFs in Practice
Institutional investors use this asset class in three main ways.
- Core Component: Investors use liquid alternative ETFs strategically as a long-term, diversifying portfolio component.
- Transition Management: While cash and money market funds are the most common transition vehicles, alternative ETFs provide efficient market exposure at a reasonable cost.
- Fund-of-funds replacement: Many institutional investors use fund-of-funds in their alternative portfolios, but this strategy brings additional fees, a lack of transparency, and potential overdiversification. Liquid alternative ETFs are a compelling replacement.
Whether an investor has short-term or long-term needs, liquid alternative ETFs are a useful tool.
Poised for Growth
With numerous benefits and applications, liquid alternative ETFs are gaining traction. In fact, the market is expected to grow nearly 2.5x by the end of 2020, from $47 billion to $114 billion.
As more institutional investors gain an understanding of this versatile asset class, they will be poised to implement a powerful tool that helps them achieve their clients’ goals.
Smashing Atoms: The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power
Nuclear power is among the world’s cleanest sources of energy, but how did uranium and nuclear power come to be?
The History of Uranium and Nuclear Power
Uranium has been around for millennia, but we only recently began to understand its unique properties.
Today, the radioactive metal fuels hundreds of nuclear reactors, enabling carbon-free energy generation across the globe. But how did uranium and nuclear power come to be?
The above infographic from the Sprott Physical Uranium Trust outlines the history of nuclear energy and highlights the role of uranium in producing clean energy.
From Discovery to Fission: Uncovering Uranium
Just like all matter, the history of uranium and nuclear energy can be traced back to the atom.
Martin Klaproth, a German chemist, first discovered uranium in 1789 by extracting it from a mineral called “pitchblende”. He named uranium after the then newly discovered planet, Uranus. But the history of nuclear power really began in 1895 when German engineer Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays and radiation, kicking off a series of experiments and discoveries—including that of radioactivity.
In 1905, Albert Einstein set the stage for nuclear power with his famous theory relating mass and energy, E = mc2. Roughly 35 years later, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman confirmed his theory by firing neutrons into uranium atoms, which yielded elements lighter than uranium. According to Einstein’s theory, the mass lost during the reaction changed into energy. This demonstrated that fission—the splitting of one atom into lighter elements—had occurred.
“Nuclear energy is incomparably greater than the molecular energy which we use today.”
—Winston Churchill, 1955.
Following the discovery of fission, scientists worked to develop a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In 1939, a team of French scientists led by Frédéric Joliot-Curie demonstrated that fission can cause a chain reaction and filed the first patent on nuclear reactors.
Later in 1942, a group of scientists led by Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard set off the first nuclear chain reaction through the Chicago Pile-1. Interestingly, they built this makeshift reactor using graphite bricks on an abandoned squash court in the University of Chicago.
These experiments proved that uranium could produce energy through fission. However, the first peaceful use of nuclear fission did not come until 1951, when Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-1) in Idaho generated the first electricity sourced from nuclear power.
The Power of the Atom: Nuclear Power and Clean Energy
Nuclear reactors harness uranium’s properties to generate energy without any greenhouse gas emissions. While uranium’s radioactivity makes it unique, it has three other properties that stand out:
- Material Density: Uranium has a density of 19.1g/cm3, making it one of the densest metals on Earth. For reference, it is nearly as heavy (and dense) as gold.
- Abundance: At 2.8 parts per million, uranium is approximately 700 times more abundant than gold, and 37 times more abundant than silver.
- Energy Density: Uranium is extremely energy-dense. A one-inch tall uranium pellet contains the same amount of energy as 120 gallons of oil.
Thanks to its high energy density, the use of uranium fuel makes nuclear power more efficient than other energy sources. This includes renewables like wind and solar, which typically require much more land (and more units) to generate the same amount of electricity as a single nuclear reactor.
But nuclear power offers more than just a smaller land footprint. It’s also one of the cleanest and most reliable energy sources available today, poised to play a major role in the energy transition.
The Future of Uranium and Nuclear Power
Although nuclear power is often left out of the clean energy conversation, the ongoing energy crisis has brought it back into focus.
Several countries are going nuclear in a bid to reduce reliance on fossil fuels while building reliable energy grids. For example, nuclear power is expected to play a prominent role in the UK’s plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Furthermore, Japan recently approved restarts at three of its nuclear reactors after initially phasing out nuclear power following the Fukushima accident.
The resurgence of nuclear power, in addition to reactors that are already under construction, will likely lead to higher demand for uranium—especially as the world embraces clean energy.
Showcasing the Strength of Canadian Gold Mining
Canadian gold mining has grown to become a highly prolific industry, thanks to its geological riches and political stability.
Showcasing the Strength of Canadian Gold Mining
Gold mining has long played an integral role in shaping Canada’s cities and its modern day economy. The gold mining infrastructure that was built alongside the country’s towns in the 19th century has grown to provide $21.6 billion worth of exports for Canada in 2020.
When combined with the country’s superb geology, Canada’s jurisdictional strengths make it one of the most prolific and secure locations in the world for mining companies to explore, develop, and produce gold.
This infographic sponsored by Clarity Gold dives into how Canada has grown into a nation built for gold mining. Both in how the country facilitates the production of gold, and how the gold mining industry supports Canada’s economy and local communities.
Canada’s Golden Geology and Production
Gold is scattered across the Canadian landscape in a variety of gold mining regions and districts, with the most prolific located between Ontario and Québec.
The 2 billion year-old Archean greenstone belt that arcs through the centre of the Canadian shield provides the foundation for the Abitibi gold belt, which has produced more than 190Moz of gold.
|Gold Mining District/Region||Provinces/Territories||Gold Produced (million troy ounces)|
|Abitibi Greenstone Belt||Ontario and Québec||>190Moz|
|Trans-Hudson Corridor||Saskatchewan and Manitoba||>40Moz|
|Golden Triangle||British Columbia||>5Moz|
Source: Resource World
The Trans-Hudson corridor in Saskatchewan and Manitoba has produced more than 40Moz of gold, while the Red Lake mining district of eastern Ontario and the Golden Triangle in British Columbia have delivered >30Moz and >5Moz respectively.
Last year, Canada’s top 10 mines produced 3.26 million ounces of gold combined, equating to more than $6 billion worth of the yellow precious metal.
|Mine||Province/Territory||Primary Owner/Operator||2020 Gold Production (thousand troy ounces)|
|Canadian Malartic||Québec||Yamana/Agnico Eagle||569Koz|
|Detour Lake||Ontario||Kirkland Lake||517Koz|
|LaRonde (incl. LZ5)||Québec||Agnico Eagle||350Koz|
|Rainy River||Ontario||New Gold||229Koz|
Ontario and Québec are the powerhouse provinces of Canadian gold production, hosting 30 mines between the two provinces.
A Nation Built for Gold Mining
Canada’s politically secure nature and established permitting process has resulted in five of the 10 largest gold mining companies having projects in Canada. Three Canadian provinces (Saskatchewan, Québec, and Newfoundland & Labrador) are among the world’s 10 most attractive mining investment jurisdictions according to the Fraser Institute’s 2020 survey of mining companies.
Beyond the legal and permitting strengths of the nation, Canada’s extensive network of capital markets has enabled the Canadian companies to dominate the world’s gold mining industry. With Agnico Eagle and Kirkland Lake’s upcoming merger, three of the world’s top five gold mining companies will be headquartered in Canada.
The Canadian equity markets are a key driver of the world’s gold exploration and development funding, with the TSX having raised $7.5 billion in mining equity capital in 2020. Gold still remains the major driver of these money flows, with gold mining companies making up more than half of Canada’s mining exploration budget.
How Gold Mining Gives Back to Canada
Ever since the first discoveries of gold across Canada in the 1800s, the development and production of gold mines has been the foundation for many towns and merchants across the nation.
Today, Canada’s mining industry directly employs more than 392,000 Canadians, with the sector offering the highest average annual industrial rate of pay in the country at $123,000. The industry is also proportionally the largest private sector employer of Indigenous peoples in Canada.
From the nation’s prolific gold deposits to its network of funding through robust public markets for mining equities, gold mining has grown into one of Canada’s most important strengths. The discovery, development, and production of the precious metal will remain an essential pillar of Canada’s economy.
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