(SHLD)Vanguard and WisdomTree are the destination for buy-and-hold investors, while Direxion captured the traders. Meanwhile, Van Eck's Market Vectors ETFs were among the fastest growing ETFs last month.The fastest-growing ETPs, measured by growth in assets under management, were a mix of the most volatile emerging markets, leveraged ETFs and commodity ETNs. Risk was the trade of the month, and investors headed for these funds even if they lost money -- in four cases, all bear market funds, net inflows exceeded total asset growth. Many of these funds were also among those seeing the fastest growth via inflows, a topic I covered last week. The ones seeing the most growth due to price appreciation were Market Vectors Indonesia ( IDX), Market Vectors Brazil Small Cap ( BRF), SDPR S&P International Technology ( IPK), iPath Nickel ETN ( JJN), iShares MSCI Peru ( EPU) and Claymore/AlphaShares China Small Cap ( HAO). As long as the market advances, these more volatile funds will attract more assets and outperform the market. Among ETFs with more than $500 million in assets, those with the largest growth in AUM included iShares DJ U.S. Basic Materials ( IYM), iShares DJ U.S. Real Estate ( IYR), SPDR S&P Homebuilders ( XHB), PowerShares VRDO Tax Free Weekly ( PVI), iPath India ETN ( INP) and iShares Hong Kong ( EWH). The standout fund here is PVI. PVI holds variable rate demand obligations (VRDOs), bonds that usually trade with minimum denominations of $100,000, meaning most investors are unfamiliar with them. One selling point that no doubt attracts income investors is the stability of PVI. Its NAV has moved only 0.5% from its all-time high to its all-time low -- in nearly two years of trading. This means an investor's principle is protected while he or she collects monthly dividends, which currently amount to about 1.3% on an annualized basis. However, the variable rates adjust weekly, so this fund's yield will increase if rates move higher.
In terms of organic versus inflow growth, U.S. Natural Gas ( UNG) saw its assets under management (AUM) increase $777 million, even though $1,167 million flowed into the fund. At the other end of the spectrum, iShares South Korea ( EWY) saw AUM increase $384 million even though just $34 million of new assets flowed in. A comparison of AUM growth between similar funds shows which funds were the more popular destinations for investors. SPDR Technology ( XLK) AUM grew 34% last month, compared to iShares DJ U.S. Technology ( IYW), with AUM up 22%. IYW even outperformed XLK by a small amount in July, but inflows favored the larger XLK. iShares DJ U.S. Basic Materials ( IYM) attracted nearly double the assets of iShares S&P Global Materials ( MXI), even though the two had near identical returns in July. A comparison of the ETF issuers shows that the large ETF issuers saw growth via asset appreciation. Barclays' (soon to be BlackRock's ( BLK)) ETF unit saw AUM increase $25.6 billion, with $4.4 billion of that in inflows. SSgA (issuer of SPDRs) saw AUM grow $8.6 billion, with $3.7 billion inflows. SSgA has just fewer than half the assets of Barclays ($152 billion vs. $317 billion). The next largest issuer, Vanguard, saw AUM increase $6.8 billion, with $2.8 billion in inflows. In terms of turnover, the top five were: Direxion at 28 times. ProShares traded 7 times assets, Merrill HOLDRs 7, SSgA 3.75, and U.S. Commodity Funds (issuer of UNG) 3. Buy-and-hold investors preferred WisdomTree, with turnover of just 0.2. It was followed by Vanguard at 0.24, First Trust at 0.29, RevenueShares at 0.31 and Pimco, at 0.37.