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ETF Deathwatch: Closures Hit 300

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Exchange-traded product (ETP) closure activity last week pushed the lifetime death toll to 300 and the year-to-date count to 89. Early October action from iPath, Russell and Global X resulted in 30 delistings so far this month.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? If an ETF closes and no shares are there to be redeemed, does it still need to liquidate?

That second philosophical question has now been answered by two Russell ETFs. The Russell Low P/E ETF (LWPE) and Russell Small Cap Contrarian ETF (SCTR) were scheduled to have their last day of trading on Oct. 16 as part of the 25-fund mass closure of Russell indexed ETFs .

However, the final shares of LWPE were redeemed on Oct, 4 and assets went to zero. The same thing happened to SCTR on Oct. 5. Russell, in a press release , said it decided to delist them the day their assets went to zero instead of waiting until Oct. 16.

No shareholders were harmed by this spur-of-the-moment closing because there were none.

The next product to meet an early demise was the iPath Long Enhanced S&P 500 VIX Mid-Term Futures ETN II (VZZB). It triggered an early termination event on Oct. 5 when its intra-day NAV hit $10, with delisting occurring after the close on Oct. 14.

VZZB came out in July 2011 to fill the void when VZZ hit its early termination trigger . This month's second early termination makes this strategy a two-time loser. No word on whether Barclays intends to see if the third time is the charm with a VZZC ETN III rollout.

Oct. 16 was the last day of trading for the remaining 23 of the 25 Russell ETFs scheduled for closing this month. Oct. 18 was the last day of trading for four global ETFs : Global X Aluminum ETF (ALUM), Global X Auto ETF (VROM), Global X Nasdaq 400 Mid Cap ETF (QQQM) (QQQM), and Global X Nasdaq 500 ETF (QQQV).

Analysis/Opinion: In addition to the 89 closures that have already taken place, there are currently five more scheduled to come this year. That pushes the tally for 2012 to 94 and climbing, more than double the 38 ETP closures of 2011 .

The number of lifetime ETP launches in the U.S. is 1,733, of which 300 have now met their demise. That equates to a 17.3% mortality rate.

Keep in mind that there are well in excess of another 300 on ETF Deathwatch .

If sponsors decide to stop subsidizing these non-profitable products, we could be looking at an ETP survival rate of less than two-thirds.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Ron Rowland is the founder and president of Capital Cities Asset Management, a fee-based registered investment adviser in Austin, Texas. He is also the founder and publisher of Invest With An Edge and All Star Investor, where he has been providing market commentary and active investment advice since 1991. Opinions expressed in this article should not be considered personal recommendations to buy or sell any security.

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