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Gross to Change Ticker Symbol on Month-Old ETF to ‘BOND’

Pacific Investment Management Co.s Bill Gross
Pacific Investment Management Co.s Bill Gross. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Bill Gross, manager of the world’s biggest mutual fund, is changing the ticker symbol on his month-old Pimco Total Return Exchange-Traded Fund to BOND as he seeks to popularize the ETF among individual investors.

Pimco Total Return ETF was listed on the NYSE Arca exchange on March 1 under the ticker TRXT. The symbol BOND wasn’t available when Pimco first requested it during the application process, Gross said in a telephone interview from his office in Newport Beach, California. The firm was notified two weeks ago that it became available, Gross said.

Pimco’s new vehicle, designed to blend the trading flexibility of ETFs with Gross’s bond-picking prowess, seeks to tap interest from investors for a segment that has attracted less than 0.5 percent of the $1.13 trillion in U.S.-registered ETF assets as of Jan. 31, according to the Investment Company Institute. The Pimco Total Return ETF, whose symbol will change on April 4, has gathered $257 million since its inception, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“There was no hesitation at all in changing the name to BOND once we knew it was available,” Gross said. “We want to be a household name and this seems like a great ticker to be able to do that.”

Bragging rights to memorable ticker symbols are migrating to ETFs as money managers vie to stand out in an industry that has grown to 1,155 offerings in the U.S., according to the Washington-based ICI. The iShares Barclays U.S. Treasury Inflation Protected Securities Fund, the biggest fixed-income ETF in the U.S., has the ticker TIP, and the symbol for the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF is BND. The Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF goes by the moniker MOO.

‘Well-Timed’ Investments

The Pimco Total Return ETF advanced 1.4 percent through March 26, compared with the 0.5 percent decline in the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF, which tracks the Barclays Capital Aggregate Bond Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gross’s $252 billion Total Return mutual fund, which uses a similar strategy to the ETF, has declined 0.2 percent in the same period.

Gross said the ETF has benefited from “well-timed” investments over the past month in agency mortgages, such as those backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and holdings in U.S. bonds such as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPs. The fund has 60 percent of its assets in agency mortgages and 15 percent in Treasuries, he said. The fund has 10 percent in non-agency mortgage bonds and another 10 percent in corporate fixed income, according to Gross.

“We’ve done better than the market, and better than Total Return, as a function of timing,” Gross said in the interview. “We have a big overweight in agency mortgages, but that was more a function of flows at the time and we’ll diversify it over time,” he said, referring to the movement of money into the fund.

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