ProShares Re-Configures Its Managed Futures ETF Effort

Includes: FMF, FUTS, WDTI
by: Brian Haskin

The managed futures category is one of three liquid alternative categories in 2015 to experience net positive inflows over the course of the year (the other being multi-alternative funds and volatility funds). However, nearly all of the flow in the category is going to mutual funds rather than exchange traded funds, of which there are only four (soon to be three) in the managed futures space. However, this isn't preventing ProShares from making its second attempt at having a successful product in the market.

Back in October 2014, the firm launched its first managed futures ETF, the ProShares Managed Futures Strategy (NYSEARCA:FUTS), which was structured as a commodities pool. As a result, the ETF issued shareholders a K-1 for tax reporting - not the most desirable feature for ETF investors. Just recently however, ProShares announced that it would be liquidating FUTS and that trading in the ETF will be halted prior to the market open on March 21. In its place, the firm has launched a new ETF: the ProShares Managed Futures Strategy ETF (NYSEARCA:FUT).

"Managed futures strategies have the potential to deliver positive returns in both rising and falling markets," said ProShares Advisors' CEO Michael L. Sapir, in a recent statement announcing the launch of the new ETF. "With their low correlation to both stocks and bonds, managed futures strategies can help diversify a stock and bond portfolio."

What's Different?

There are two main differences between the new fund and the old fund. The new fund is structured as an open-ended mutual fund under the Investment Act of 1940, similar to a bulk of other ETFs. In fact, notes that many fund companies have been shying away from managed futures funds structured as commodity pools, presumably due to their added tax complexity. This change means that the new fund will issue a 1099 rather than a K-1. That's a big improvement for anyone looking to keep their tax filings simple (that's on a relative basis!).

The second difference is that the new fund is an actively managed fund, meaning that the advisor can actively manage positions in the portfolio and not be tied solely to what the underlying index is holding. Here again, this is a positive change that will give ProShares a bit of leeway to enhance returns and/or manage certain holdings in a way that will ideally be beneficial to shareholders.

What's the Same?

Most significantly, the underlying index of the two funds is the same, which is the S&P Strategic Futures Index. This index, as described by ProShares, uses "an innovative risk-weighting methodology so that each commodity, currency, and fixed income position contributes an equal amount of estimated risk to the overall portfolio when it rebalances monthly." Now, as an active ETF, the fund will have latitude to deviate from the index.

In addition to the underlying index, the portfolio manager, Ryan Dofflemeyer, and the expense ratio, 0.75%, also remain the same.

Other Managed Futures ETFs

Two other managed futures ETFs are available for investors. The largest and oldest is the WisdomTree Managed Futures Strategy ETF (NYSEARCA:WDTI) with an inception date of January 5, 2011 and just over $200 million in assets. The second oldest is the $12.3 million First Trust Morningstar Managed Futures Strategy Fund (NYSEARCA:FMF), which was launched on August 1, 2013.

Jason Seagraves contributed to this article.