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Opinion
Eric Balchunas

The ETF Fee War Is No Laughing Matter

The relentless cost-cutting by issuers may appear self-defeating, but there’s a logical endgame.

Life is nasty, brutish and short for many ETFs.

Life is nasty, brutish and short for many ETFs.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

The fee war gripping the market for exchange-traded funds has seemingly entered silly season, with one firm just announcing a plan to slash costs below zero. To be clear, this is no joke.

I can’t recall a more fast-moving, violent outbreak in the ETF fee wars as we’ve seen in the past few weeks. About 10 different issuers cut or undercut costs on about two dozen products with smaller issuers such as Social Finance and Salt Financial taking fees down to zero or below. Big firms such as BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street keeping grinding their fees lower while undercutting with new products.