U.S. ETF launches set early record in 2024, helped by spot bitcoin funds

FILE PHOTO: Illustration of bitcoin

By Suzanne McGee

(Reuters) - The much anticipated U.S. debut of 11 exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tied to spot bitcoin has contributed to a record start to the new year for ETF launches, data from issuers and analysts showed.

A total of 35 new ETFs made their debut in the first two weeks of 2024, compared to the previous record of 23 set in 2022 and only seven in the same period last year. The early 2024 number includes nine newly-created spot bitcoin ETFs and two spot bitcoin ETF conversions.

Todd Rosenbluth, head of research at VettaFi, believes the “great start” to the year will help total annual 2024 launches eclipse last year’s record, which hit 520 last year, according to Morningstar.

Nine of the new ETFs, launched Jan. 2 by Innovator ETFs and PGIM Investments, are so-called defined outcome products that seek to offer a degree of downside protection in stocks while also capping upside performance.

RexShares, meanwhile, launched three ETFs that use leverage to deliver a multiple of the rise or fall of an index or stocks such as Microsoft Corp and Apple Inc.

This week, Calamos Investments LLC rolled out its third ETF, the Calamos CEF Income & Arbitrage ETF, an actively-managed fund that invests in closed-end mutual funds. Calamos said in a press release that it has "several more ETFs on the horizon."

Competing for attention and investor dollars with the much-anticipated spot bitcoin ETFs may have been a tough proposition for some of the funds, said Todd Sohn, ETF analyst at Strategas.

The spot bitcoin funds drew $1.9 billion in asset inflows in their first three days, collectively outpacing the post-launch flows into the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF, which pulled in a record $1.2 billion in the first three days of trading after its 2021 debut.

F/m Investments launched a suite of ETFs tied to a newly-designed index tracking investment-grade bonds last week. The firm only issued a press release and began marketing the funds this week, however, hoping the new issues would garner more attention after the bitcoin ETFs had already launched, a spokesperson for the company said. He added that in spite of the relative lack of publicity or marketing, they have attracted inflows of $34 million so far.

"If you were seeking your moment in the spotlight, this was not a great time to launch," Sohn said.

(This story has been refiled to fix a typo in paragraph 6)

(Reporting by Suzanne McGee, Editing by Nick Zieminski)