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Lionel Laurent

Are Trendy Robot Funds Making Suckers of Us All?

ETFs lump vacuum cleaners together with cutting-edge droids.
Photographer: James Leynse

Robots are seen as an inescapable part of our future, whether you're Jeff Bezos romping around in a giant mechanical suit or Barack Obama warning that humans are at risk of being automated out of a job. So, as with lots of cutting-edge stuff, people are throwing money at the industry. Funds that invest in robot tech are attracting record inflows.

Yet the parallel rise on financial markets of cheap tracker funds such as ETFs, which follow trends and particular sectors—like robotics—has created some strange distortions that may be helping to support bubble-like valuations for companies with certain products.