Pimco, already a hugely successful player in actively managed ETFs with its short-term cash-equivalents ETF (NYSEArca:MINT) just filed to bring the Bill Gross-led Total Return strategy to the ETF marketplace.
Pimco Total Return's mutual fund version (PTTRX) is the largest fund in the world at $236 billion. It launched in 1986, the heyday of the active mutual fund boom. It's also one of the most successful fixed-income funds in the world. The fund has returned 2.08 percent year-to-date, posted 8.36 percent returns in 2010, 13.33 percent in 2009 and a surprising 4.33 percent in 2008. Depending on the share class, investors can pay a front-end load and up to 90 basis points for the privilege of owning the current Pimco Total Return mutual fund, although it's possible to get that down to a no-load 46 basis points in size.
Total Return is the poster child for Bill Gross, the bond-picking maven of Pimco, and Gross' moves are followed by fixed-income watchers the way Warren Buffett's stock picks are. When Gross moved Total Return out of U.S. government debt in March of this year, it made international headlines.
It's worth noting that the Pimco ETF, when it launches, won't technically be the same portfolio as the Total Return mutual fund. That kind of hub-and-spoke arrangement is still unique to Vanguard's, until their patent on the process expires in a few years.
Part of the Total Return strategy is to step away from Fixed Income when it makes sense. The fund will only target 65 percent of fixed-income exposure, and can put up to 15 percent of its assets in securities deemed illiquid. This go-anywhere strategy has served the fund well performancewise, and has led some to call Total Return a hedge fund in mutual fund clothing. The fund has experienced periods of very high turnover, and it's not uncommon for an entire sector of debt to go from 25 percent of the portfolio to nothing in a quarter should Gross make a tactical call.
Management fees, ticker and launch dates remain to be seen.
You can read the filing on EDGAR.
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