"It's a big turnaround," Brorup said.
Most notable among U.S. equity gainers was the biggest of them all, the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), which had the largest net outflows for the first half of the year. Now it's topping the charts for inflows, with close to $6 billion in September. The Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) was second in September flows, with close to $2 billion.
Top ETF asset classes in September
- U.S. equity: $9.35 billion
- U.S. fixed income: $8.85 billion
- International fixed income: $1 billion
Last quarter, international equity flows dwarfed all other ET asset classes, with $48 billion in flows, and the next highest inflows were in international fixed income, though at a "measly" $2 billion, Brorup said.
The data also shows the skittishness one would expect on the part of investors amid the high volatility, with the third-quarter take for U.S. equities, the leading asset class, less than half the second-quarter international equity ETF flows, at $19.5 billion. U.S. fixed income was the No. 1 gainer in the third quarter, with more than $21 billion in flows. International equity ETF flows sunk to $1 billion in the third quarter.
Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF and mutual fund research, S&P Capital IQ Global Markets Intelligence, agreed that despite a down performance for U.S. equities, the significant inflows, particularly for large caps, is the most interesting shift in recent ETF investing.