A version of this story previously ran in Financial Advisor IQ's sister publication, Ignites.
Flows into Russian-themed ETFs surged in the lead-up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reports.
The funds logged net inflows of $89.5 million in the week ending Monday, according to TrackInsight data cited by the FT.
The influx represents a third of the funds' net flows so far this year, or more than 3% of the $2.9 billion collectively held by the 15 ETFs.
Separate data from FactSet also indicates strong sales for the sector. During the week ended last Thursday, $69.7 million flowed into the 38 ETFs and mutual funds with at least 50% exposure to Russia, the data shows. Collectively, the funds have $8.7 billion in assets.
The inflows coincide with a sharp sell-off among Russian equities and dismal returns for the funds. The median Russian ETF is down 12% so far this year in dollar terms and 9.4% in the week through Monday.
Though the buying could be motivated by bargain-hunting, it could also paradoxically stem from expectations of further losses, said Todd Rosenbluth, head of ETF and mutual fund research at CFRA.
“The flow to Russian ETFs is either people trying to benefit from the discounted valuation from panic selling or using the ETF to create shares for shorting purposes,” Rosenbluth told the FT. “Getting liquid access to Russian stocks is harder than it is using ETFs.”
The inflows could also reflect investors' expectations of rising energy prices, Elisabeth Kashner, director of global fund analytics at FactSet, told the FT.
The VanEck ETF has a 41% exposure to the energy sector, she noted.
Energy ETFs as a group have also garnered strong sales, drawing net inflows of $619 million in the week through Monday, according to TrackInsight data. About half of those flows have gone to State Street Global Advisors’ $34.1 billion Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund.
Russian forced invaded Ukraine early Thursday after President Vladimir Putin announced that he would carry out a “special military operation in Ukraine.” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's Secretary-General, called the attacks a “brutal act of war.”