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  Passive vs. Active Fund Flows
Posted Under: Conceptual Investing
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View from the Observation Deck:

Investors directing capital into mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) continued to favor passive investing over active management on a massive scale for the 12-month period ended 1/31/23.

This has been the case for the past several years. Passive mutual funds and ETFs reported estimated net inflows totaling $583.95 billion for the 12-month period ended 1/31/23 while active funds reported estimated net outflows totaling $914.52 billion over the same period. The only active categories over the past 12 months with net inflows were Nontraditional Equity, Alternative and Miscellaneous with inflows of $23.07 billion, $21.88 billion and $1.38 billion, respectively (see table above). For comparison, the top three passive categories were U.S. Equity, Taxable Bond and International Equity with inflows of $289.63 billion, $206.89 billion and $70.92 billion, respectively.

Despite lackluster returns in the major global stock indices for the 12-month period ended 1/31/23, investors funneled more capital into equities than any other category.  

The S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600 Indices posted total returns of -8.23%, 2.30% and -1.00% respectively, for the 12-month period ended 1/31/23, according to Bloomberg. With respect to foreign equities, the MSCI Daily TR Net World (ex U.S.) and MSCI Emerging Net TR Indices posted total returns of -2.98% and -12.12%, respectively. Combined, the Taxable and Municipal Bond categories reported net outflows totaling $267.40 billion for the 12-month period ended 1/31/23. The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) rose by 5.76% for the 12-month period ended 1/31/23, according to Bloomberg. The index reflects the general international value of the dollar relative to a basket of major world currencies. The stronger dollar created a drag on the performance of unhedged foreign securities held by U.S. investors, in our opinion.

Takeaway: Passive mutual funds and ETFs saw inflows of $583.95 billion compared to outflows of $914.52 billion for active funds over the trailing 12-month period ended 1/31/23. In the table above, we observe the largest disparity occurred in the Taxable Bond category, with active shedding $367.54 billion compared to inflows of $206.89 billion for passive funds. Nontraditional Equity, Alternative, and Miscellaneous were the only three categories to see inflows among both the active and passive management styles. To view the last time we updated this post, please click here.

This chart is for illustrative purposes only and not indicative of any actual investment. The illustration excludes the effects of taxes and brokerage commissions and other expenses incurred when investing. Investors cannot invest directly in an index. The S&P 500 Index is an unmanaged index of 500 companies used to measure large-cap U.S. stock market performance. The S&P MidCap 400 Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the mid-range sector of the U.S. stock market. The S&P SmallCap 600 Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks U.S. companies with a small market capitalization. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure equity market performance of emerging markets. The MSCI World (ex U.S.) Index is a free-float weighted index designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets. The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY) indicates the general international value of the dollar relative to a basket of major world currencies.

Download a PDF of this post, please click here.

Posted on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 @ 8:36 AM • Post Link Print this post Printer Friendly

These posts were prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P., and reflect the current opinion of the authors. They are based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.
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