World's Biggest ETF Bleeds Assets But No Liquidity Crunch

(Bloomberg) -- ETF investors finally got out their white flags Thursday, but what followed was an orderly surrender in the benchmark S&P 500 fund.

This week’s global equity maelstrom spurred money managers to yank $6.6 billion from the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust, ticker SPY, the world’s largest passive fund with over $260 billion in assets. The 17th-biggest outflow in the product’s history constitutes a bearish capitulation of sorts: On Wednesday, the exchange-traded fund, which tracks the main U.S. index, reeled in $2.5 billion.

World's Biggest ETF Bleeds Assets But No Liquidity Crunch

Volume surged as the ETF lurched from inflows to outflows. About $76 billion worth changed hands on Thursday, Bloomberg data show. That’s the highest daily turnover since February and a level exceeded only five other times in the fund’s 25-year history.

World's Biggest ETF Bleeds Assets But No Liquidity Crunch

“Liquidity appears to have been solid throughout the day,” Patrick Hennessy of IPS Strategic Capital, an investment-management firm, tweeted. Bid-ask spreads in some of the most heavily-traded U.S. equity ETFs -- including SPY -- jumped but remained well below the heights reached in February.

World's Biggest ETF Bleeds Assets But No Liquidity Crunch

“The Feb event was a liquidity-driven sell-off,” Hennessy wrote in a tweet. “Yesterday was, by comparison, an ‘orderly sell-off.’”

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