Where Investors Put Their Money in 2018
For most investors, 2018 was both an eventful and frustrating year.
Between the looming threat of trade wars and growing geopolitical uncertainty, the market also skipped a beat. Volatility took center stage, and the S&P 500 finished in negative territory for the first time in 10 years.
Although many asset classes finished in negative territory, a look at fund flows – essentially where investors put their money – helps paint a more intricate picture of the year for investors.
Visualizing 2018 Fund Flows
Today’s infographic comes to us from New York Life Investments, and it visualizes the flows in and out of U.S. funds for 2018.
It not only shows when investors poured money into mutual funds or ETFs, but it also breaks down these funds by various categorizations. For example, when did people buy funds that held U.S. equities, and when did they buy funds that primarily held money market securities?
Let’s dive into the data, to take a deeper look.
Mutual Funds vs. ETFs
For another year in a row, ETFs gained ground on mutual funds:
|Type of Fund||2018 Fund Flows||Total Assets (End of Year)|
|ETFs||+$238.4 billion||$3.4 trillion (17.2%)|
|Mutual Funds||-$91.3 billion||$16.3 trillion (82.8%)|
However, despite growing for another year, ETFs still make up a smaller part of the overall fund universe.
Flows by Asset Class Group
Every fund gets classified by Morningstar based on the types of assets it holds.
For example, a fund that focuses on holding fast-growing, large tech companies in the U.S. would be classified broadly as “U.S. Equity”, and more specifically as “U.S. Equity – Large Growth”.
Here’s how flows went, within these broader groups:
|Fund Category Group||Total Assets ($mm)||Growth in 2018|
|International Equity||$ 2,787,400||3.1%|
|Money Market||$ 2,879,510||6.2%|
|Municipal Bonds||$ 795,132||0.9%|
|Sector Equity||$ 816,149||-3.7%|
|Taxable Bonds||$ 3,747,268||3.5%|
|U.S. Equity||$ 7,173,902||0.0%|
Investors pulled money from Allocation, Alternative, and Sector Equity funds, while rotating into Money Market and Taxable Bonds categories. These latter assets are considered safer, and this shift is not surprising considering the market volatility towards the end of the year.
Also interesting here is that U.S. Equity – the biggest category overall by total assets – saw equal amounts of inflows and outflows, ending with a 0.0% change on the year.
U.S. Equity: A Closer Look
U.S. Equity ended the year with zero change, but it’s also the biggest and broadest category.
Let’s break it down further – first, we’ll look at what happened to flows by market capitalization (small, mid, and large cap stocks):
|Market Capitalization||Assets||Growth (2018)|
|Large Caps||$5.6 trillion||0.2%|
|Mid Caps||$884 billion||-2.5%|
|Small Caps||$672 billion||1.7%|
Investment in funds that held large cap stocks increased by 0.2%, while the money allocated to small caps rose by 1.7% over 2018. Interestingly, investors pulled money out of mid caps (-2.5%).
Now, let’s look at U.S. Equity by type of strategy:
|Fund Strategy||Assets||Growth (2018)|
According to these flows, investors pulled money from funds focused solely on value or growth, while instead preferring funds that were a blend of the two strategies.
Finally, let’s see the types of international funds that investors bought and sold over 2018.
|Diversified Emerging Markets||4.9%|
Investors eschewed funds that had a primary focus on European, Indian, and Japanese markets, while piling into funds that held Chinese equities. Meanwhile, Latin America and emerging markets also got some love from investors.
While 2018 was an eventful year for markets, this recap shows that investors are adjusting their portfolios accordingly.
Where will investors put their money in 2019?
How China Overtook the U.S. as the World’s Major Trading Partner
China has become the world’s major trading partner – and now, 128 of 190 countries trade more with China than they do with the United States.
How China Overtook the U.S. As the World’s Trade Partner
In 2018, trade accounted for 59% of global GDP, up nearly 1.5 times since 1980.
Over this timeframe, international trade has transformed significantly—not just in terms of volume and composition, but also in terms of the countries that the rest of the world leans on for their most important trade relationships.
Now, a critical shift is occurring in the landscape, and it may surprise you to learn that China has already usurped the U.S. as the world’s most dominant trading partner.
Trading Places: A Global Shift
Today’s animation comes from the Lowy Institute, and it pulls data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) database on bilateral trade flows, to determine whether the U.S. or China is a bigger trading partner for each country from 1980 to 2018.
The results are stark: before 2000, the U.S. was at the helm of global trade, as over 80% of countries traded with the U.S. more than they did with China. By 2018, that number had dropped sharply to just 30%, as China swiftly took top position in 128 of 190 countries.
The researchers pinpoint China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization as a major turning point in China’s international trade relationships. The dramatic shift that followed is clearly demonstrated in the visualization above—between 2005 and 2010, a number of countries tipped towards Chinese influence, especially in Africa and Asia.
Over time, China’s dominance has grown dramatically. It’s no wonder then, that China and the U.S. have a contentious trade relationship themselves, as both nations battle it out for first place.
A Tale of Two Economies
The United States and China are competitors in many ways, but to be successful they must rely on each other for mutually beneficial trade. However, it’s also the major issue on which they are struggling to reach a common ground.
The U.S. has been vocal about negotiating more balanced trade agreements with China. In fact, a mid-2018 poll shows that 62% of Americans consider their trade relationship with China to be unfair.
Since 2018, both parties have faced a fraught relationship, imposing major tariffs on consumer and industrial goods—and retaliations are reaching greater and greater heights:
While a delicate truce has been reached at the moment, the trade war has caused a significant drag on global growth, and the World Bank estimates it will continue to have an effect into 2021.
At the same time, China’s sphere of influence continues to grow.
One Belt, One Road, One Trade Direction?
China seems to have a finger in every pie. The nation is financing a flurry of megaprojects across Asia and Africa—but one broader initiative stands above the rest.
China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) Initiative, planned for a 2049 completion, is advancing at a furious pace. In 2019 alone, Chinese companies signed contracts worth up to $128 billion to start Chinese large-scale infrastructure projects in various countries.
While building new highways and ports abroad is beneficial for Chinese financiers, OBOR is also about creating new markets and trade routes for Chinese goods in Asia. Recent research found that the OBOR program’s infrastructure expansion and logistics performance improvements led to positive effects on China’s exports.
Nevertheless, it’s clear the new infrastructure network is already transforming global trade, possibly cementing China’s position as the world’s major trading partner for years to come.
Visualizing the Expanse of the ETF Universe
The global ETF universe has grown to be worth $5.75 trillion — here’s how the assets break down by type, sector, and investment focus.
Visualizing the Expanse of the ETF Universe
View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here.
Under the right circumstances, an innovation can scale and flourish.
Within the financial realm, there is perhaps no better example of this than the introduction of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), a new financial technology that emerged out of the index investing phenomenon of the early 1990s.
Since the establishment of the first U.S. ETF in 1993, the financial instrument has gained broad traction — and today, the ETF universe has an astonishing $5.75 trillion in assets under management (AUM), covering almost every niche imaginable.
Navigating the ETF Universe
Today’s data visualization comes to us from iShares by BlackRock, and it visualizes the wide scope of assets covered by the ETF universe.
To start, let’s look at a macro breakdown of the “galaxies” that can be found in the universe:
|Global ETFs (AUM, $USD)||Share of Global Total|
|All ETFs||$5.75 trillion||100.00%|
|Money market||$0.04 trillion||0.6%|
As you can see, equities are by far the largest galaxy in the ETF universe, making up 76.4% of all assets. These clusters likely comprise the ETFs you are most familiar with — for example, funds that track the S&P 500 index or foreign markets.
That said, it’s worth noting that the fastest expanding galaxy is bond ETFs, tracking indices related to the debt issued by governments and corporations. The first bond ETFs were introduced in 2002, and since then the category has grown into a market that exceeds $1 trillion in AUM. Bond ETFs are expected to surpass the $2 trillion mark by 2024.
Everything Under the Sun
While the sheer scale of the ETF universe is captivating, it’s the variety that shows you how ubiquitous the instrument has become.
Today, there are over 8,000 ETFs globally, covering nearly every asset class imaginable. Here are some of the lesser-known and more peculiar corners in the ETF universe:
Thematic ETFs: Gaining popularity in recent years, thematic ETFs are built around long-term trends such as climate change or rapid urbanization. By having more tangible focus points, these funds can also appeal to younger generations of investors.
Contrarian ETFs: In a healthy market, there can be a variety of different positions being taken by investors. Contrarian ETFs help to make this possible, allowing investors to bet against the “herd”.
Factor-based ETFs: This approach uses a rules-based system for selecting investments in the fund portfolio, based on factors typically associated with higher returns such as value, small-caps, momentum, low volatility, quality, or yield.
Global Macro ETFs: Some ETFs are designed to mimic strategies used by hedge fund managers. One example of such a strategy is global macro, which aims to analyze the macroeconomic environment, while taking corresponding long and short positions in various equity, fixed income, currency, commodities, and futures markets.
Commodity ETFs: There are ETFs that track gold or oil, sometimes even storing physical inventories. Interestingly, however, there are commodity ETFs for even more obscure metals and agricultural products, such as zinc, lean hogs, tin, or cocoa beans.
Whether your investments track popular market indices or you are more surgical about your portfolio exposure, the ETF universe is impressively vast — and it’s projected to keep expanding in size and diversity for years to come.
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