August 24, 2015 marked an influential day in the marketplace when we awoke to extremely volatile global markets. Although not the cause of the issues on 8/24, many ETFs were affected by a collision between market volatility and market structure. One of the key factors in why market participants had difficulty pricing ETFs during the opening minutes of 8/24 centered on a little-known and antiquated rule by the NYSE, called Rule 48.
Fixed income ETFs provide the investing world with transparency in an otherwise opaque asset class. However, because of the over-the-counter nature of the fixed income market and the fact that ETFs with fixed income underlying securities were adopted later than their equity-based relatives, there are still myths around the trading and liquidity profiles of these funds.
When I see headlines along the lines of “Fixed income exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are not liquid and pose a risk to the system!” I can’t help but think, Stop the madness! Fixed income ETFs can actually add liquidity to the overall ecosystem and could potentially protect investors better than traditional investment structures.