Sunday, October 6, 2013

Exchange Traded Funds and Securities Lending

What about the liquidity of these investment vehicles? In normal operation, market makers are constantly present to disseminate buyer and seller and act as counterparty investors. Their presence ensures the liquidity of the ETF, even if it is built on the underlying assets or not illiquid. This is where we must bear in mind another practice widespread market: securities lending. Securities lending are at two levels in the world of ETFs. First, the fund issuer may be required to pay the securities in the portfolio to improve profitability. This additional income can be used to reduce the tracking error, or simply return the funds. In this case it should be distributed to the investor again. Second, ETFs are exchange-traded, investors can sell short.

This possibility is heavily used by hedge funds because ETFs can speculate down on an entire index, avoiding the hassle of selling each individual underlying security. The speculator must borrow the security sold short during the holding period of the short position. On the stock market, the stock of available titles is limited, hence a strong demand in the bond market makes way more expensive to borrow, which discourages speculators. It is not the same on the ETF market and they can be created on demand, which allows borrowing amount and so building significant short positions.

This leads to a rather unlikely situation first, where some of the ETF amount of short positions is several times the number of shares actually outstanding! Many holders of ETF therefore hold shares actually "ghosts”, which were sold to them by a short seller, the latter saying that the shares can be created anyway when the time comes. If sellers orders flock to the ETF arbitrage trading seen above, which we have seen, are fully automated trigger.

Specialized intermediaries massive demand the return of the underlying securities of the issuer. But the issuer may either not hold at all, or have lent. He will not be able to deliver immediately, or not being able to deliver at all. However, there are provisions limiting the daily volume of refunds on the money, especially if short positions identified above a certain threshold.

In addition, an “Authorized Participant" must prove , when requesting a refund on the one hand , that it is "real" and not the result of a securities loan at any level of the chain. If such clauses may allow the fund to survive individually in a debacle, they are unlikely to calm the markets. Indeed, if investors are denied the ability to obtain repayment of the shares that they were sold as completely safe and liquid , it is more likely that the panic spreads to all ETF , then why not the underlying assets.


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