April 4th, 2013 by Tom Lydon

Active vs. Passive Debate Spills Into ETFs By Tom Lydon

Actively Managed ETFs News:

The debate over active management versus passive management remains, but in the end does it really matter? Both styles compliment exchange traded fund investing and when used together — they can both enhance a portfolio.

“While some trace their history to as early as 2000, most were launched in just the last five years. Looking at the market size, the Morningstar managed ETF database puts total market assets at just under $57 billion as of last September, representing 486 strategies from about 120 firms,” InvestmentNews reports.

The active ETF category is still small, but the concept of actively managed ETFs is derived from asset allocation rather than stock picking, reports Jim Kim on Fierce Finance. Active ETF managers have the ability to go outside of a targeted benchmark and enhance their strategy. The small tweaks in sector allocations can work in favor of a better return, or fall flat.

The passively managed ETF has gained much recognition and merit through performance and assets. Nicole Seghetti for The Motely Fool reports that passive investments now account for roughly 20% of total invested dollars, split nearly equally between mutual funds and ETFs, and more than 40% of institutional assets.

Robert Whitehead’s “Active Versus Passive Investing” white paper noted that, “Between 1998 and 2007, more than half of them (passive funds) beat the S&P 500. … If one measures performance over the ten-year period beginning in 1997, passive management wins; move forward a year and active management comes out ahead.”

The active versus passive debate is more media scrutiny some may claim, because both styles have proven performance track records and both styles work. In fact, within a properly diversified portfolio, both active and passive ETFs can bring something to the table. Seghetti reports that neither style can emerge a true winner that would eliminate the need for the other.

Some of the most popular active ETFs to date include the PIMCO Total Return ETF (NYSEArca: ) and the PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Strategy ETF (NYSEArca:  ), with $4.6 billion and $2.7 billion in assets under management, respectively. Investors can expect a spate of new, active ETFs to pick from this year, including funds from Eaton Vance and USAA Asset Management.

“ETFs continue to grow alongside passive investing as a whole, but a breakthrough in the active equity space could unleash a new wave of product development and growth, driving assets at a greater pace than prior years,” a report from Cerulli & Associates stated.

Tisha Guerrero contributed to this article.

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