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Education Series: Single-Stock ETPs

Measuring an ETP’s true liquidity

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Websim is the retail division of Intermonte, the primary intermediary of the Italian stock exchange for institutional investors. Leverage Shares often features in its speculative analysis based on macros/fundamentals. However, the information is published in Italian. To provide better information for our non-Italian investors, we bring to you a quick translation of the analysis they present to Italian retail investors. To ensure rapid delivery, text in the charts will not be translated. The views expressed here are of Websim. Leverage Shares in no way endorses these views. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment, please seek financial advice. View the original at
It is no secret that ETPs continue their dominant growth in popularity, as global ETP/ETF AUM reached a new high of $6 trillion in 20191. The combination of enhanced transparency, lower costs and increased liquidity has made them the preferred alternative to traditional mutual funds. Despite the increased awareness of these products, some general misconceptions still persist – especially regarding the topic of liquidity.

When most investors check data on liquidity, the steps are relatively straightforward. Check the bid price, the ask price, and the volume being traded. The smaller the spread and the higher the volume, the more liquid the product is. Simple, right? Yes – and no. In the case of a normal stock, the aforementioned is true. However, when considering the same for exchange-traded products (which include ETFs), the indicator has another layer to it.

Prior to exploring the depths of ETP liquidity, let us review a few key terms distinctive to these products:

    •     Authorized participant (AP) – Usually a large financial institution, like an investment bank that

interacts directly with the ETP issuer.

    •     Market maker (MM) – Financial institution that has a contract with the exchange to provide

constant bid/offer spreads throughout the day. In many cases, the AP is also the MM.

Unlike typical mutual funds and closed-end funds, ETPs have an inherent redemption mechanism, which helps keep the market price in line with its NAV. Like normal stocks, as the ETP price fluctuates throughout the trading day, the AP can step in and do one of the following:

    a.     If the market price > NAV, the AP can buy the constituent stocks and simultaneously

exchange them for ETP shares, which can then be sold to investors.

    b.     In the opposite scenario, where NAV > market price, the AP can purchase ETP securities and

exchange them for the constituent securities, which it will then sell on the market to make a riskless profit.

This arbitrage mechanism is available only to authorized participants who deal directly with the ETP issuer in the primary market. As retail investors only have access to the secondary market, they can then purchase and sell the ETP shares on a regulated stock exchange (like the London Stock Exchange or Euronext Amsterdam) through a broker as they would with any other stock. As ETPs are open-ended, meaning new units can be created/redeemed as needed, actual liquidity is more dependent on the underlying stock. For example, if an investor wanted to buy additional ETP securities on an exchange, the AP makes a transaction with the ETP issuer to create new units as needed.
Conclusion

Low volume on the actual ETP security does not indicate a lack of liquidity, and the investor is better served by checking the average daily volume of the stock(s) that constitute the ETP. As most of the underlying assets tracked by ETPs are highly liquid, most can draw tens of millions without having a negative impact on the liquidity of the underlying assets. This is essentially the case even if the ETP has a relatively small amount of assets under management.




  1. ETFGI, “ETFGI reports assets in the global ETFs and ETPs industry which will turn 30 years old in March started the new decade with a record 6.35 trillion US dollars,” 16 January 2020.

Your capital is at risk if you invest. You could lose all your investment. Please see the full risk warning here.

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Sandeep joined Leverage Shares in September 2020. He leads research on existing and new product lines, asset classes, and strategies, with special emphasis on analysis of recent events and developments.

Sandeep has longstanding experience with financial markets. Starting with a Chicago-based hedge fund as a financial engineer, his career has spanned a variety of domains and organizations over a course of 8 years – from Barclays Capital’s Prime Services Division to (most recently) Nasdaq’s Index Research Team.

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Prior to joining LS, Violeta worked at several high-profile investment firms in Australia, such as Tollhurst and Morgans Financial where she spent the past 12 years of her career.

Violeta is a certified market technician from the Australian Technical Analysts Association and holds a Post Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment from Kaplan Professional (FINSIA), Australia, where she was a lecturer for a number of years.

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