PowerShares Files Two More Active Bond ETFs

Includes: IVZ, PLK
by: IndexUniverse

PowerShares says it has filed to launch a pair of new actively managed exchange-traded funds focusing on non-agency residential mortgage-backed securities.

The two proposed funds are the Prime Non-Agency RMBS Opportunity Fund and the Alt-A Non-Agency RMBS Opportunity Fund.

The types of fixed-income both funds will hold come from non-subprime areas of the RMBS market. Credit requirements for prime loans are the most difficult to qualify for and Alt-A somewhat less.

As non-agency loans, the ETFs will be investing in securities that won't qualify as collateral for securities that are issued by Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae (FNM) or Freddie Mac (FRE).

"We believe that various economic factors have converged to push the prices of many Prime and Alt-A residential mortgage-backed securities well below their fundamental values," said Bruce Bond, chief executive at PowerShares, in a statement on Wednesday.

Taking Advantage Of TARP

The new ETFs will no doubt benefit from actions by the U.S. Treasury as well as the Federal Reserve to prop up failing credit markets. That's especially true in fixed-income mortgage markets. For example, 30-year fixed rates have dropped in the past year from more than 6% to below 5%.

"We are hopeful that these ETFs will provide access and transparency into these markets along with some of the much needed additional liquidity originally intended by the TARP," added Bond.

Money managers have shown a lot of interest in buying investments they believe can take advantage of TARP and other government rescue programs. In fact, earlier this month, an index came out featuring TARP companies directly involved in government bailouts. (See story here.)

The funds' holdings will be updated daily and be run by parent Invesco's (NYSE:IVZ) institutional money managers, according to PowerShares. No word yet on how much PowerShares will charge for the new bond funds. Its first actively managed bond ETF, the Active Low Duration Fund (NYSEARCA:PLK), charges an expense ratio of 0.29%.

Can Active Bond ETFs Outperform?

But PLK has only attracted some $3.8 million in assets since launching in April 2008. It was actually the second active bond ETF on the market. Since the fall of Bear Stearns and its active bond fund, PLK has been the only player in that category. (See related story here.)

PLK is a short-duration fund and there are lots of currency ETFs out now, some of which are run by active managers. Since the proposed PowerShares RMBS funds will hold longer-termed issues, though, PLK will represent a broadening of choice on the yield curve among actively managed bond ETFs.

Still, it might be worth noting that markets have been warming to mortgage-backed securities as a whole for awhile now.

As related by Dow Jones Newswires' Ian Salisbury, who first reported PowerShares' filing, several of the most popular mutual fund managers have already boosted their mortgage-backed securities holdings. (See third item in "Best ETF Articles In The National Media.")

And many broad index-based bond ETFs have already done much the same, following an ongoing and evolving trend in fixed-income investing.

If nothing else, the entry of two more active funds from PowerShares raises a much-debated issue: Can active managers find more luck beating passively run portfolios in the ETF marketplace? (See related Journal of Indexes story, "Will Actively Managed Bonds Work?")