Understanding and Navigating ETFs' Premiums and Discounts
ETFs are generally priced efficiently, but it's important that investors look before they leap.
The exchange-traded fund marketplace is littered with a variety of terms and acronyms that have left many investors in want of a user's manual. From time to time, it is worth going back to basics to better understand the ins and outs of ETFs' mechanics to help investors use them to their best advantage. Here, I will discuss net asset value: what it is, why it matters, and how to make sure you are buying shares of an ETF at a fair price.
What Is NAV?
Net asset value is the total value of an ETF's assets less the total value of its liabilities. The composition of an ETF's assets will vary but will generally comprise stocks, bonds, and/or cash. If the fund uses physical replication to track its benchmark (that is, it owns securities, not derivatives), the assets are the component securities (or a sampling thereof) of its benchmark index, any accrued income generated through securities lending, and some cash. Liabilities for ETFs and other funds will largely consist of fees owed to the fund company. An ETF's NAV per share can then be calculated by dividing the total NAV of the fund by its number of outstanding shares.
Ben Johnson does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.
Transparency is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.
We’d like to share more about how we work and what drives our day-to-day business.
We sell different types of products and services to both investment professionals and individual investors. These products and services are usually sold through license agreements or subscriptions. Our investment management business generates asset-based fees, which are calculated as a percentage of assets under management. We also sell both admissions and sponsorship packages for our investment conferences and advertising on our websites and newsletters.
How we use your information depends on the product and service that you use and your relationship with us. We may use it to:
To learn more about how we handle and protect your data, visit our privacy center.
Maintaining independence and editorial freedom is essential to our mission of empowering investor success. We provide a platform for our authors to report on investments fairly, accurately, and from the investor’s point of view. We also respect individual opinions––they represent the unvarnished thinking of our people and exacting analysis of our research processes. Our authors can publish views that we may or may not agree with, but they show their work, distinguish facts from opinions, and make sure their analysis is clear and in no way misleading or deceptive.
To further protect the integrity of our editorial content, we keep a strict separation between our sales teams and authors to remove any pressure or influence on our analyses and research.
Read our editorial policy to learn more about our process.