Sunday 25th January 2015
FRIDAY, JANUARY 23RD 2015: European markets regulator ESMA has added Athens Exchange Clearing House to its list of authorised CCPs under the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR). EMIR requires EU-based CCPs to be authorised and non-EU CCPs to be recognised in the European Union (EU). The updated list of authorised CCPs is available on ESMA's website - Driven by strengthening private domestic demand, economic growth in the US is expected to accelerate modestly this year and drag last year’s unspectacular housing activity upward, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) Group. Amid continued low gasoline prices, a firming labour market conditions, rising household net worth, improving consumer and business confidence, and reduced fiscal headwinds, the economy is expected to climb to 3.1% in 2015, up from the Group’s estimate of 2.7% in the prior forecast. The stronger economic backdrop should lead to improving income prospects, underpinning a higher rate of household formation in 2015. "Our theme for the year, Economy Drags Housing Upward, implies that both housing and the economy will pick up some speed in 2015, but that the economy will grow at a faster pace," says Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan. "We have revised upward our full-year economic growth forecast to 3.1% for 2015, which is not yet robust but still an improvement over last year’s growth. Consumer spending should continue to strengthen due in large part to lower gas prices, giving further support to auto sales and manufacturing. We believe this will motivate the Federal Reserve to begin measures to normalize monetary policy in the third quarter of this year, continuing at a cautiously steady pace into 2016 and 2017, likely keeping interest rates relatively low for some time." - The Russian Central bank said yesterday that its gold reserves grew by a 600,000 ounces (18.7 tonnes) in December – the ninth successive month of gold reserve increases. Russia has now more than tripled its gold reserves in the past ten years. The ruble has fallen in value by almost 50% in the past 12 months which makes the nation’s gold reserves ever more important to its global economic status – According to LuxCSD the Taiwan Depository and Clearing Corporation (TDCC) has announced, effective Sunday (January 25th) the firm’s BIC will change from TDCCTWT1 to TDCCTWTP. Customers should quote the TDCC's new BIC in field 95P::PSET//TDCCTWTP of their settlement instructions – Moody's today upgraded the Corporate Family Rating (CFR) of Stabilus S.A. to B1 from B2 and the Probability of Default Rating (PDR) to B1-PD from B2-PD. At the same time the rating agency upgraded the instrument ratings assigned to the Senior Secured Notes issued by Servus Luxembourg Holding S.C.A. to B1 from B2. The outlook on all ratings remains positive – The US Federal Reserve Bank of New York says its daily Fed Funds effective rate is now 0.12% (Low 0.30%, High 0.3125%) with four basis points of standard deviation - Vanguard Group, already the biggest mutual fund company in the world, has risen to second place as a provider of exchange-traded funds, says ETF.com—based on the success of its low-cost index funds, including ETFs. Boston-based State Street Global Advisors, has dropped from second to third. Even so, SSGA still has the largest ETF in the world, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY | A-98) - The Straits Times Index (STI) ended +41.21 points higher or +1.22% to 3411.5, taking the year-to-date performance to +1.38%. The FTSE ST Mid Cap Index gained +0.97% while the FTSE ST Small Cap Index gained +0.23%. The top active stocks were CapitaLand (+4.09%), DBS (+0.80%), SingTel (+0.76%), UOB (+0.72%) and Noble (-0.47%). The outperforming sectors today were represented by the FTSE ST Real Estate Holding and Development Index (+2.31%). The two biggest stocks of the FTSE ST Real Estate Holding and Development Index are Hongkong Land Holdings (+1.18%) and Global Logistic Properties (+1.57%). The underperforming sector was the FTSE ST Oil & Gas Index, which gained +0.16% with Keppel Corp’s share price unchanged and Sembcorp Industries’s share price declining +0.93%. The three most active Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) by value today were the SPDR Gold Shares (+0.77%), IS MSCI India (+1.89%), DBXT MSCI Asia Ex Japan ETF (+1.57%) –
Mark Wiedman, global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand. Mark Wiedman, global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand. Photograph kindly supplied by iShares, November 2011.

20-20: Turning BlackRock's ETF fortunes

Thursday, 15 December 2011
20-20: Turning BlackRock's ETF fortunes Mark Wiedman’s appointment as global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand is a concerted effort to sharpen the focus of the consortium of exchange-traded funds launched by BGI in May 2000 that combines index fund-style diversification with the liquidity of stock trading. To date, iShares accounts for roughly half of the estimated $1.1trn in US-based ETF assets. While AUM continues to grow at a steady clip, competitors have gradually whittled away at the company’s domestic market share (currently around 43%). Can Wiedman buck the trend? David Simons reports. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/media/k2/items/cache/bd3eebf32e04c907d6d9fc42f4213df5_XL.jpg

Mark Wiedman’s appointment as global head of BlackRock’s iShares brand is a concerted effort to sharpen the focus of the consortium of exchange-traded funds launched by BGI in May 2000 that combines index fund-style diversification with the liquidity of stock trading. To date, iShares accounts for roughly half of the estimated $1.1trn in US-based ETF assets. While AUM continues to grow at a steady clip, competitors have gradually whittled away at the company’s domestic market share (currently around 43%). Can Wiedman buck the trend? David Simons reports.

During a recent earnings conference call, Laurence Fink, BlackRock’s chairman and chief executive, likened the recent run-up in ETF product innovation to the pre-crisis market for mortgage-backed instruments. BlackRock, said Fink, “needs to be very assertive as a firm” in order to prevent “a lack of disclosure on these products”.

To help address issues such as transparency—while also enhancing its ETF product line—BlackRock in September 2011 announced it had tapped Mark Wiedman, managing director in charge of corporate strategy, to serve as the new global head of  iShares, the ETF provider acquired by BlackRock as part of the 2009 buyout of Barclays Global Investors (BGI). Wiedman succeeds Mike Latham, who will continue as iShares chairman. Having served as an adviser to global financial institutions on balance-sheet issues at the height of the crisis, as well as heading up corporate strategy for BlackRock, Wiedman got a “crash course” in understanding clients’ problems and mobilising BlackRock’s capabilities in order to solve them. “I worked closely with iShares throughout the BGI integration and on iShares strategy work, so I stepped into the role with some familiarity with the businesses and the terrific leadership team,” says Wiedman.



ETFs appear to be still in their infancy, and have benefited from factors that include greater use of fixed-income and commodity-based products, increased uptake among fee-based advisers, as well as new product launches within the major exchanges. These conditions will likely pave the way for larger ETF fund allocations over the near term. Wiedman claims: “ETFs are one of the top two or three socially productive financial innovations of the past 40 years, with a value proposition that speaks to a galaxy of clients, from sovereign wealth funds to retail investors. ETFs deliver efficient exposure to global markets using the most democratic, transparent, and liquid vehicle yet devised.”

From the perspective of iShares, key growth drivers over the near term include fixed-income ETFs (which currently represent only a fractional amount of total outstanding bonds within the US), as well as equity income. Meanwhile, the potential for across-the-board ETF uptake exists in nearly every market around the world, says Wiedman.

Unifying US and foreign ETF platforms was a priority for BlackRock following the acquisition of iShares, and the ability to offer both US and European product lines to investors around the globe has been one of iShares’ greatest strengths to date.  “Some 15% of the assets in domestic ETFs are currently held outside the US and in Europe in 2011, we’ve seen over 15% organic growth, in part driven by buyers from Asia. As we look forward, our UCITS-compliant European product line could possibly become the de facto global standard,” says Wiedman.

The rise in ETF fund flows has coincided with a marked increase in product complexity, and, in some instances, has sparked concerns over opacity. For its part, the SEC continues to take a dim view of derivatives-based ETF products, compelling many providers to back away from such offerings.  

Wiedman notes: “We would call products that trade on an exchange ‘exchange-traded products’ or ‘ETPs’ while reserving the label ‘ETF’ for a sub-category that meets certain agreed standards of simplicity and transparency, including backing by underlying securities, rather than derivatives. We understand that regulators around the world will have different views. However, we believe that a standardised classification system could help regulators develop appropriate rules in each jurisdiction.”

The proliferation of so-called “cheap beta” ETF products—or, in some instances, ETFs that are totally commission-free—has had a dramatic impact on the business as a whole. Rather than attempt to compete on price, however, iShares has instead turned its attention toward product development, including active ETFs, which mimic the performance of hedge funds at a fraction of the cost. In August 2011, the company sought the SEC’s permission to launch a set of actively-managed equity ETFs, each based on proprietary BlackRock benchmarks.

“If there is a one thing I learned from my past experience at BlackRock, it’s that iShares will succeed by doing what we do best—not by playing on others’ terms,” offers Wiedman. “We are the sole global player competing against regional players in every market. No one can match our global presence, scale, or brand. Capitalising on that unique position is where our future lies.”

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