International exchange-traded funds gained some favor with investors in November. And in another surprising trend, trading activity in a real estate ETF also made a large leap.
In TheStreet.com Ratings' latest monthly tabulation of the 20 ETFs with the highest average daily dollar volume of trading activity, the
iShares Emerging Markets
iShares MSCI EAFE
each climbed four positions in the rankings. They were joined by the
iShares Dow Jones U.S. Real Estate
, which moved from a position of 20th most active a month ago to the 16th position in terms of dollar volume activity.
November's list of the most active 20 ETFs (as represented in the accompanying table) remained more constant than in previous months. Only one fund -- the
ProShares Ultra Short Russell 2000
-- appears on the November tally, but not on the prior month's. It retreated 16.26% in November but remains ahead by 57.30% for the year to date.
iShares MSCI Brazil
, which ranked 19th in October, dropped to 23rd most active in November, thereby removing it from the top-20 list. EWZ eased 6.65% in value in November and is down 56.13% for the year to date.
(To check out the previous month's list of the 20 most popular ETFs, check out the
The Top ETFs for a Harried October
Twelve of the most popular ETFs suffered double-digit percentage setbacks in November, and 15 are down by more than 10% for the year to date. Seven of the group had their values cut in half during the first 11 months of 2008.
Each of November's 20 most popular ETFs achieved average daily turnover of at least $1 billion, whereas only 17 funds turned that level of trading in October. The increase in November came despite a decline in the daily average volume of all ETFs from $135.1 billion in October to $114.8 billion in November.
The enhanced trading interest in the top 20 underscores potential liquidity issues within the ETF universe. The most popular five ETFs generated 54.9% of total daily average dollar volume of the entire ETF population in November. For the top 10 funds, it was 67.4% of the total; for the top 20, it was 82.5%; and the most popular 50 ETFs generated 93.6% of total average daily dollar volume for the entire investment category.
The biggest 50% of ETFs, measured by average daily dollar turnover, accounted for 99.91% of the total for all 793 funds for which November daily average dollar volume is available. In other words, the 396 least-popular ETFs generated only 0.09% of all ETF daily average dollar volume of trading.
SPDR S&P 500 ETF
outdistanced all other ETFs in daily average dollar volume of trading. It changed hands in November at a daily average pace of $42.99 billion, off from its October pace of $53.4 billion. Its top holdings include blue-chip stocks like
SPY tumbled 16.52% in September and now sits 32.74% down for 2008 to date.
The second most popular ETF in September was the
, whose top holdings, in addition to Mircrosoft, include
remained in the top five in terms of average daily dollar volume.
Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.