ETFs or Exchange Traded Funds

More and more investors are using exchangetraded funds (ETFs) to build diversified portfolios. Perhaps you should consider it too, if you understand the risk trade-offs.
More and more investors are using exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to build diversified portfolios. You might also consider it, if you understand the trade-offs between risk and return.
An ETF is a basket of securities whose shares are sold on an exchange. They combine the characteristics and potential benefits of equities, mutual funds or bonds. Like individual stocks, ETF shares trade throughout the day at prices that change according to supply and demand. Like mutual fund shares, ETF shares represent partial ownership of a portfolio that has been created by investment managers.

What are exchange-traded funds or ETFs?

In short, an ETF is a basket of securities that you can buy or sell through a securities brokerage firm on a stock exchange. ETFs are offered for virtually all possible asset classes, from traditional investments to so-called alternative assets such as commodities or currencies. In addition, the innovative structures of ETFs allow investors to short the markets, gain leverage and avoid taxation on short-term capital gains.

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Main types of ETFs

There are many types of ETFs, each with a different investment approach. Below are some of the most common ETFs.

  • Diversified Passive Equity ETFs: are designed to track the performance of widely followed stock market benchmarks, such as the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and MSCI Europe Australasia Far East (EAFE) indices. note 1 Major index ETFs tend to track their benchmarks closely.
  • Passive equity ETFs: specialised ETFs, such as those reflecting sector subsets of the S&P 500 Index or the Russell 2000 Small Company Index, can provide investors with specific exposure to help fine-tune their portfolio strategy. Like diversified passive funds, these niche portfolio funds are typically composed of the same securities used to calculate their benchmarks.
  • Active equity ETFs: allow their managers to use their own judgement in selecting investments, rather than being rigidly tied to a benchmark index. Active ETFs may offer the potential to outperform a market benchmark, but may also carry greater risk and higher costs.
  • Fixed income ETFs: focus on fixed income rather than equities. Core fixed-income ETFs tend to be actively managed but have relatively low turnover and generally stable portfolios.

Other types of ETFs

  • Market ETF: Designed to track a specific index, such as the S&P 500 or NASDAQ.
  • Bond ETFs: US Treasuries, corporate bonds, municipal bonds, international bonds, high yield bonds and more.
  • Sectoral and industrial ETFs: Oil, pharma or technology: designed for exposure to a specific sector, such as oil, pharma or technology.
  • Commodity ETFs: designed to track the price of a specific commodity, such as gold, oil or corn.
  • Style ETFs: ETFs: designed to follow an investment style or focus on market capitalisation, such as large-cap value or small-cap growth.
  • Foreign market ETFs: ETFs: designed to track markets outside the United States, such as Japan’s Nikkei index or Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index.
  • Inverse ETFs: ETFs that are designed to benefit from a decline in the underlying market or index.
  • Active ETFs: Unlike most ETFs, which are designed to track an index, these are designed to outperform an index.
  • Traded notes (ETNs): essentially debt securities backed by the creditworthiness of the issuing bank and designed to provide access to illiquid markets; they have the added advantage of generating virtually no tax on short-term capital gains.
  • Alternative Investment Funds ETFs: Innovative structures, such as ETFs, that allow investors to trade volatility or gain exposure to a particular investment strategy, such as a currency carry or a covered call.
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Different structures

Originally, ETFs were organised as unit investment trusts (UITs). In a UIT, an investment company buys a fixed portfolio of securities and then sells shares of that portfolio to investors. This type of structure results in dividends being held in an interest-bearing account, from which they are deposited into the ETF, usually on a quarterly basis. Delaying the investment of dividends may have a slightly negative effect on the total return of the ETF, as dividends are held in cash rather than invested.

Other ETFs are structured as open-ended funds. This arrangement follows the typical mutual fund structure, as the investment company constantly offers and redeems new shares. The open-ended structure allows for immediate reinvestment of dividends.

Advantages of ETFs
Disadvantages of ETFs
Advantages of ETFs

  • Potential tax efficiency
  • Low expenditure ratios
  • It is traded throughout the day on the stock exchange.
  • No minimum investment amount in dollars (no fractional share purchase possible)
  • You can sell short and buy on margin

Disadvantages of ETFs

  • Brokerage commissions incurred
  • Capital gains distributed from time to time
  • Flexibility may encourage frequent negotiation, which could lead to loss of tax advantage

ETF classifications

Tax efficiency: ETFs can be more tax efficient than some traditional investment funds. A mutual fund manager can trade shares to satisfy investor redemptions or to pursue the fund’s objectives. The sale of shares can generate taxable gains for the fund’s shareholders.

As ETFs are like stocks, redemptions are not a problem. In addition, managers of index-based ETFs only make trades to match changes in their index, which can lead to greater tax efficiency.

Low costs: Passively managed ETFs (managers typically trade equities only to replicate the underlying benchmarks) can have lower annual costs than actively managed funds.

Flexible trading – Like stocks, ETFs trade in real time and are traded throughout the day. Mutual funds, on the other hand, do not have this flexibility: their prices are based on end-of-day trading prices.

They can be sold short and bought on margin – Because ETFs trade like stocks, investors can use them in certain investment strategies, such as selling short and buying on margin.

No minimum investment – Most mutual funds require a minimum investment, whereas with most ETFs, an investor can usually buy any number of shares.

Diversification – ETFs can be a good way to increase the diversification of your portfolio. For example, buying shares in a technology sector ETF can potentially be less risky than buying shares in a single technology stock: an ETF can hold shares in many different technology companies.

what does etf mean

For the curious


It is updated frequently and contains quotes from selected ETFs.

ETF MarketPro

Education, pricing, research and other tools specific to ETFs.

Are ETF dividends taxed?

No, they do not. You can hold the ETF for as long as you like. What is the tax regime for ETFs in Spain? Unlike investment funds, capital gains derived from the redemption or transfer of ETFs are subject to withholding tax.

How are ETF dividends paid?

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) pay a full dividend, which is linked to the shares held in the funds. To this end, most ETFs pay dividends quarterly by withholding all dividends paid on the underlying shares during the quarter and then paying them pro rata to shareholders.

Of course, like all investments, ETFs can involve risks and other potential drawbacks. Consider these factors before investing: The flexibility of ETF trading can encourage frequent trading. This could lead to the possibility of poor market timing (moving in and out of stocks at inopportune times). Brokerage costs are incurred. For this reason, ETFs may be more appropriate for an investor who buys and holds a large number of stocks at a time than for an investor who uses a systematic investment programme. There may be capital gains distributions. On occasion, some ETFs have distributed taxable capital gains, usually because managers needed to buy or sell stocks to match their underlying benchmarks. In addition, government bond ETFs are subject to federal income tax. You should carefully consider the risks of different ETFs. For example, many sector ETFs tend to be more volatile than ETFs that track the broader market. Consult a financial professional before investing in an ETF to make sure you understand the risks and have the most up-to-date information.

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