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Understanding the basics What are exchange-traded productsImage by Pexels


Investing can sometimes feel overwhelming, especially with so many terms and options floating around. One term you might hear often is 'exchange-traded products', or ETPs. But what are they? 

Many people feel lost when trying to understand them amidst all the financial chatter. This guide is here to help. 

I'll break down the basics of exchange-traded products in simple words, making it easy for you to grasp this important investment tool. 

Stick with me, and you'll soon have a clearer view of the investing world.


Exchange Traded Product (ETP): Overview

Simply put, an ETP is a financial security that is traded on an exchange, much like how stocks are bought and sold. Its primary function is to track the performance of a specific underlying asset or index, which could range from commodities and currencies to bonds and stock market indices.

ETP morphs into various structures like exchange-traded funds (ETFs), exchange-traded notes, and exchange-traded contracts (ETCs). What binds them together is their shared trait: they all undergo trading on an exchange platform. 

The concept isn't entirely new, tracing its roots back to the launch of the first ETF by State Street Global Advisors in 1993. 

Over the years, the allure of ETPs has only grown. A testament to their rising prominence is the astounding fact that ETFs grew rapidly, reaching almost 10 trillion U.S. dollars in 2022.

The appeal of ETPs goes beyond mere numbers. They present a potent tool for investors, granting them a streamlined and economical pathway to delve into a plethora of assets and markets. 

This means that investors can, with relative ease, allocate funds to a diverse basket of assets, which might otherwise have posed challenges in terms of accessibility and cost. The ripple effects of ETPs have been deeply felt across the financial sector. 

They've not only ushered in fresh competition against the long-standing mutual funds but have also paved the way for innovative investment strategies. 

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Different types of exchange-traded products

The world of exchange-traded products (ETPs) offers a diverse array of financial instruments, each catering to specific investor needs and preferences. 

These products have garnered significant attention due to their ability to provide exposure to various asset classes, from equities to commodities. 

Let's delve into the different types of ETPs to understand their distinct characteristics and how they can fit into an investor's portfolio.

  1. Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs):
    • Overview: Often the first type that comes to mind when we talk about ETPs, ETFs are the most prevalent in the market.
    • Mechanics: Essentially, ETFs are investment funds holding a diversified portfolio of assets such as stocks, bonds, or even commodities. The worth of an ETF reflects the net asset value (NAV) of these underlying assets.
    • Trading dynamics: Just like stocks, ETFs are traded on exchanges, and their prices fluctuate based on the supply and demand dynamics.
    • Diversity: One of the significant advantages of ETFs is their versatility. They can encompass various asset classes, be it domestic equities, international stocks, fixed-income securities, or tangible commodities.
  2. Exchange-Traded Notes (ETNs):
    • Overview: ETNs, while similar in name to ETFs, differ significantly in structure and function.
    • Mechanics: They are essentially debt instruments provided by financial establishments that mimic the performance of a particular index or asset. ETNs don't own the assets they represent. Instead, they pledge a return built upon the underlying asset's performance.
    • Credit Risk: An essential facet of ETNs is the credit risk involved. The return on an ETN hinges upon the issuer's creditworthiness. If the issuer defaults, investors might face losses.
  3. Exchange-Traded Commodities (ETCs):
    • Overview: ETCs are specialized ETPs, honing in on commodities.
    • Mechanics: ETCs closely monitor the performance of specific commodities such as gold, silver, or oil. Some ETCs might possess the actual commodity, while others might use derivatives to simulate the price movements of these commodities.
    • Trading dynamics: Similar to ETFs, ETCs are traded on exchanges. Their prices swing depending on the supply and demand of the underlying commodity.


Example of exchange-traded products

Exchange-traded products (ETPs) come in various flavours, catering to different segments of the market. Among these, commodity ETFs stand out as they track the performance of specific commodities rather than sectors or stock indices.

Imagine a financial institution designs an ETF to capture the dynamics of the gold market. This ETF doesn't directly own gold bars in a vault. Instead, it has a diversified mix of gold ETFs such as SPDR Gold Shares, iShares Gold Trust, SPDR Gold MiniShares Trust and others. 

Throughout the trading day, this Gold ETF can be bought and sold on a stock exchange, much like shares of a company. 

Its value, or net asset value (NAV), fluctuates in tandem with gold prices. When the price of gold ascends, the value of the Gold ETF naturally rises. Conversely, a dip in gold prices would see the ETF's value decrease.

The brilliance of such an ETF lies in its simplicity. Investors, eager to get a slice of the gold market, can purchase shares of this Gold ETF. By doing so, they get exposure to gold's price dynamics without the hassle of buying, storing, or insuring the physical metal. 

This not only provides an efficient means to invest in gold but also eliminates concerns like storage costs and authenticity checks associated with physical gold.

Additionally, the ETF's trading nature on exchanges ensures liquidity. Investors can swiftly adjust their positions, entering or exiting based on gold's price trajectory and their market predictions.

Furthermore, the ETF's presence on an exchange assures fluidity and transparency. This setup empowers investors to seamlessly modify their investment stance based on evolving market trends.


Exchange-traded products vs. exchange-traded funds

Exchange-traded products, or ETPs, cast a wider net in the financial seas. They represent a broad category encompassing a variety of investment tools.

This spectrum includes not only the well-known exchange-traded funds (ETFs) but also entities like Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) and Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs). This diverse nature makes ETPs versatile, catering to a wide array of investment strategies and preferences.

Positioned under the ETP umbrella, ETFs are but a subset within this larger category. While they share several traits with other ETPs, they stand out due to their unique composition and focus. 

ETFs primarily aim to mirror the performance of specific markets or sectors, tracking underlying benchmark indices. Consequently, their success or failure closely aligns with the market or sector they represent.

At their core, both ETPs and ETFs are open-ended investments traded on exchanges. This "open-ended" characteristic implies that the number of units in circulation can fluctuate based on supply and demand. 

Investors appreciate this trait, as it ensures liquidity, allowing them to easily enter or exit positions. 

Moreover, both investment avenues are generally passive, aspiring to emulate the performance of a designated market. This means they typically trade at, or in proximity to, their net asset value (NAV).


What are exchange-traded products FAQs?

How do ETPs differ from mutual funds?

Unlike mutual funds, which are priced once a day after market close, ETPs are listed on stock exchanges and can be bought and sold throughout the trading day at market prices. This provides greater liquidity and real-time pricing for ETPs.

Are ETPs safe to invest in?

Like all investments, ETPs come with risks. Their value can fluctuate based on the performance of the underlying asset or index they track. Before investing, it's crucial to research and understand the specific ETP and consider your risk tolerance.

What are the costs associated with investing in ETPs?

ETPs often have expense ratios, which cover the operational costs of the fund. Additionally, investors might incur brokerage commissions when buying or selling ETPs on an exchange.

How do ETPs generate returns for investors?

ETPs aim to replicate the performance of a specific market, asset, or index. If the underlying asset or index appreciates, the ETP's value will typically increase as well. Investors can earn returns from price appreciation and, in some cases, dividends or interest.

Can I short-sell ETPs?

Yes, similar to stocks, many ETPs can be short-sold on exchanges, provided there's sufficient liquidity and the broker permits it.

How can I buy or sell ETPs?

ETPs can be bought or sold on stock exchanges through brokerage accounts, just like you would purchase or sell a stock.

Are ETPs suitable for long-term investments?

ETPs can be used for both short-term and long-term investment strategies. The suitability depends on the specific ETP and the investment objectives of the individual.


In summary

Throughout this article, I've explored the realm of exchange-traded products, providing clarity on "what exchange-traded products”, their diverse types, real-world examples, and their distinction from exchange-traded funds. 

Understanding these instruments is vital in today's rapidly evolving financial landscape.

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Next article you can check out: What is CFD trading? (A full guide with benefits, risks and CFD trading examples)

“When considering exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for trading and price predictions, remember that trading CFDs involves a significant degree of risk and could result in capital loss. Past performance is not indicative of any future results. This information is provided for informative purposes only and should not be construed to be investment advice.”

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