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Vanguard cuts ETF fees in race to zero with BlackRock

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(Bloomberg) -- The race to cut fees in ETFs is getting ever more intense.

Vanguard, the second-largest provider, lowered expense ratios for 68 ETFs and mutual funds Friday, including the world's largest funds focused on emerging equities and European stocks. It's the third set of reductions by Vanguard since late December, and comes after similar moves in the past year by State Street and the biggest ETF provider, BlackRock.

Just days after Vanguard’s announcement, TD Ameritrade announced plans to reduce online equity trades to $6.95, as well as lowered ETF trade commissions.
The fund operators are seeking to hold on to market share amid fast expansion in the ETF industry, which has more than $3 trillion in assets globally, and growing conviction that many investors are best served by low-cost index funds. Vanguard's move is good news for money managers looking to tap into emerging stocks and equities in Europe after run-ups in both over the past year.

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"This is an attempt to gain new assets, but more importantly not to lose assets when your competitor is cutting fees," said Mohit Bajaj, a director of ETF trading solutions at WallachBeth Capital in New York. "This is great for investors."

Most of the $284 billion taken in by ETFs during the past year was going to products with an average fee of 9 basis points or less, data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence show.

The Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF, the world's largest fund invested in developing stocks, has seen its expense ratio cut by 1 basis point to 14 basis points, the same as BlackRock's iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF, the third-biggest fund invested in developing stocks. The iShares fund has been a standout this year, with investors putting $4.2 billion into the product, the most among 2,000 U.S. competitors.

The expense ratio for Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF, the world's largest ETF invested in European stocks, declined to 10 basis points from 12 to match the fee for the iShares Core MSCI Europe ETF.

Vanguard's ETFs gathered $93 billion in 2016, up from $76 billion a year before. BlackRock's ETFs attracted about $140 billion last year.

Bloomberg News