Expenses on Spiders Become Itsy-Bitsy

As giant Barclays prepares to enter the exchange-traded funds market, the price war begins.
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Spiders just got cheaper.

The annual expenses on the popular

Standard & Poor's Depositary Receipts

(SPY) - Get Report

-- commonly known as Spiders -- have been reduced to a maximum 0.12%, or 12 basis points, from the current 0.18%.

The move by

State Street Bank & Trust

, trustee for the Spiders, appears to be a pre-emptive strike aimed at

Barclays Global Investors.

In a matter of weeks, Barclays is expected to

introduce a slew of its own exchange-traded funds, one of which will compete directly with the Spider.

Barclays must come up with a way to attract attention to its own rival products, and

one area of battle will obviously be cost. Barclays, however, has yet to disclose the expenses on its upcoming exchange-traded funds.

State Street is capping the expenses at 12 basis points for two years, according to a filing with the

Securities and Exchange Commission


"It could go lower," says Gus Fleites, head of exchange-traded products at

State Street Global Advisors

. "We're just ensuring it's not going to go higher."

As part of the move, State Street cut its trustee fees, a major component of the portfolio's expenses.

Spiders track the benchmark

S&P 500

index, like many index mutual funds, but shares trade just like stocks.

Launched in 1993, the Spiders portfolio is the largest of the existing exchange-traded products, and now commands $16.6 billion in assets.