FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 12 December 2015

Investor Bulletin: Exchange Traded Notes ETNs

from the Securities and Exchange Commission

The SEC's Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is issuing this Investor Bulletin to educate investors about exchange-traded notes ("ETNs"). ETNs are unsecured debt obligations of financial institutions that trade on a securities exchange. ETN payment terms are linked to the performance of a reference index or benchmark, representing the ETN's investment objective.

You should understand that ETNs are complex and involve many risks for interested investors, and can result in the loss of your entire investment.

What is an ETN?

ETNs are unsecured debt obligations of financial institutions. They are very different from traditional corporate bonds because, unlike traditional corporate bonds - which pay a stated rate of interest - the return on an ETN is based on the performance of a reference index or benchmark (minus any investor fees you may pay). ETNs generally do not pay interest to their holders. Payments on ETNs may be linked to well-known broad based securities indexes or based on indexes tied to emerging markets, commodities, volatility, a specific industry sector (e.g. oil and gas pipelines), foreign currencies, or other assets. ETNs that offer leveraged exposure pay a multiple of the performance of the reference index or benchmark. Other ETNs (called inverse ETNs) are calculated based on the opposite of the performance of the reference index or benchmark. Many ETNs are issued with maturities of 20 or 30 years, and are not intended to be held to maturity. Accordingly, returns to an investor generally arise from trading the ETN rather than from holding the ETN to maturity.

What is the Difference Between an ETN and an ETF?

ETNs are often confused with exchange-traded funds (ETFs). ETNs and ETFs are both traded on a securities exchange and can be bought and sold throughout the day, but there are important differences. ETFs are registered investment companies. An investor in an ETF owns shares of a fund, which represents an ownership interest in an underlying portfolio of assets. An ETF discloses to investors the value of its portfolio of assets by publishing an end-of-day net asset value and by disseminating an estimate of its value generally every 15 seconds during the trading day, which is sometimes called an intraday indicative value. An ETF issues and redeems its shares in creation units, at their net asset value.

ETNs share some characteristics with ETFs. For example, ETNs also issue and redeem notes in creation unit sizes (generally, 25,000 to 50,000 notes); like with ETFs, the creation and redemption process affects the number of notes trading at any point in time. For both ETNs and ETFs, the purchasers of the creation units split them up to sell the individual notes or shares, as applicable, to investors in transactions on an exchange. But there is a fundamental difference between ETFs and ETNs. Unlike ETFs, ETNs do not own an underlying portfolio of assets and this makes holders of ETNs subject to the creditworthiness of the issuer. As ETNs do not own assets, when issuing new ETNs, ETN issuers calculate the value of the ETN using a described formula, rather than using net asset value.

Market Trading and Valuing ETNs

ETNs are listed on an exchange and may be bought and sold at market prices. An ETN's prospectus will describe both how the value of the note is determined on any particular trading day, as well as how the value of the reference index or benchmark is calculated. Issuers publish a value at the conclusion of each trading day representing the amount an issuer would be obligated to pay the investor. Market prices may vary from these published values.

Potential Risks to Consider Before Investing in ETNs

Potential risks of investing in ETNs include the following:

Complexity - You and your broker should take time to understand the manner in which the reference index or benchmark is calculated, including the fees that are included in either the reference index or the calculation of the value of the ETN. Compare and contrast the ETN to other investment products offering a similar investment strategy.

Credit Risk (Issuer Default) - You should be aware that when you purchase an ETN you are subject to the creditworthiness of the issuing financial institution and would be a creditor if the issuer defaults on payments due.

Market Risk - In addition to the credit risk of the issuer, ETNs also expose investors to the performance risk of the reference index or benchmark.

Leverage - Leveraged, inverse, or inverse-leveraged ETNs reset on a daily basis their exposure to the leveraged, inverse, or inverse-leveraged exposure stated in the prospectus, meaning that all investors receive an equal amount of leveraged, inverse, or inverse-leveraged exposure. As a result, investors holding such ETNs for more than one day should not expect to receive returns proportional to the exposure stated in the prospectus. The difference can be significant. Consequently, leveraged, inverse, or inverse-leveraged ETNs are not typically used as buy-and-hold instruments.

Price Volatility (Market Price versus Indicative Value) - ETNs can trade at premiums or discounts to their indicative value, especially in instances in which the issuer has suspended further note issuances. If you are considering purchasing ETNs, you should compare market prices against indicative values.

Liquidity Risk - There is a risk that if you need to cash out your investment, you may not be able to sell the ETN immediately and at a price that you would consider reasonable (for example, you may have to sell the ETN at a lower price than if you were able to wait to liquidate your investment). This is the case for most illiquid securities and the liquidity of ETNs varies significantly. For example, some ETNs have daily volume in excess of a million notes, while others may have little trading activity over several days. You should consider your overall timeframe for the investment, including how quickly you may need to sell the ETN.

Additional Considerations:

Do not invest in something that you do not understand. Before purchasing an ETN, you should consider:

  • Whether ETNs are a suitable investment for you. You should review your investment objectives and tolerance for risk with your broker or financial adviser before you consider investing in an ETN. They can help you determine whether or not the risks associated with a particular ETN are within your tolerance for risk, or whether your investment needs are better served by investing in another product. Your broker should only recommend transactions and investment strategies that are suitable for you based on your investment profile.

  • What fees are associated with an ETN, such as fees included in the reference index or benchmark, daily investor fees that reduce the closing indicative value of the ETN, and the amount of brokerage commissions you may pay when buying and selling an ETN.

  • Whether you understand how the reference index or benchmark is calculated.

  • Whether you understand how the indicative values and redemption values are calculated and what they measure.

  • Whether you understand the tax implications, if any, because the tax treatment can vary depending upon the nature of the ETN. It may be appropriate to consult a tax professional.

Finally, you may wish to consider seeking the advice of an investment professional. If you do, be sure to work with someone who understands your investment objectives and tolerance for risk. Your investment professional should understand complex products, such as ETNs, and be able to explain to your satisfaction whether or how they fit with your objectives.

Additional Resources:

Contact the SEC:

Submit a question to the SEC or call the SEC's toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330 (dial 1-202-551-6551 if calling from outside of the United States).

Report a problem concerning your investments or report possible securities fraud to the SEC.

Stay Informed:

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Run A High Pressure Economy? Janet Yellen Does Not Understand the Problem
A Short Note on a Connection Between Marginalist Economics and Folk Medicine
News Blog
Where Workplace Trust Is Strongest
How A Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Brain - And Personality
How Accurate Are Final US Election Polls
What We Read Today 27 October 2016
A Pony And His Beloved Teddy Bear Reunite After Being Apart For 3 Years
October 2016 Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Remains In Expansion
September 2016 Median Household Income Not Statistically Different Than The Previous Month
September 2016 Pending Home Sales Index Improves
22 October 2016 Initial Unemployment Claims: Rolling Averages Marginally Worsen
Durable Goods New Orders Marginally Declined in September 2016
Infographic Of The Day: 41 Interesting Facts About Tesla Motors
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Down, Oil Lower, Great Lakes Wind Power, Chinese Moving Mfg To US, Tesla Reports Profit, Dems Forecast To Take Senate, China's Debt And More
How Miller Stacks Up Against His Draft Class
Investing Blog
Galaxy Note Disaster Wipes Out Samsung's Mobile Profits Technical Report 27 October 2016
Opinion Blog
A Hard Brexit And Reduced Migration Won't Benefit UK Workers
What Triggers Collapse?
Precious Metals Blog
Inflation Surging As Platinum Signals Stock Market Decline
Live Markets
27Oct2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes Fractionally Lower, Interest-Rate Stocks Outweighed Gains In Healthcare, Market Indicators Bearish
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved