Serving mammon and making money, all while adhering more or less to one’s Christian value system,  just got a little more difficult after FaithShares announced it would soon shut down four exchange traded funds (ETFs) tailored to the presumed values and strictures of Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists.

The four ETFs were among five offered for the past three years by the Oklahoma-based firm in an effort to target a Christian investor base it estimated at more than 150 million households nationwide. Within a few weeks, Christian investors looking for type of specialized investment will only have one FaithShares ETF to invest in: the FaithShares Christian Values Fund ETF (FOC). All five of the company’s ETFs were originally classified as  large-cap blend equities ETFs.

The four funds being closed are the FaithShares Baptist Values Fund (FZB), the FaithShares Catholic Values Fund (FCV), the FaithShares Lutheran Values Fund (FKL) and the FaithShares Methodist Values Fund (FMV).

The funds are being closed because there's only minimal investor interest. The Baptist and Methodist ETFs, for example, each only have about $1.5 million in assets and report average daily trading volumes of just 1,000 shares.

Investors holding any of the closed ETFs in their portfolios who want to switch over to the remaining FaithShares Christian Values Fund will have to accept some investments that their earlier and more specialized ETFs proscribed. And, in some cases, they will find themselves avoiding some investments that they might have been included in their original portfolios.

For example, Baptists will find that the remaining Christian Values ETF is very similar to the Baptists Values Fund in its holdings, except that where their earlier fund might not have been investing in companies doing medical research with stem cells, such companies would not be proscribed. At the same time, where they might earlier have been invested in defense contractors that make land mines, those companies are not included in the remaining Christian Values Fund ETF.

Lutherans, meanwhile, who in their specialty ETF were staying away of companies involved in making nuclear weapons or that had bad environmental records, would find no such limits with the Christian Values Fund. And Catholics, whose special ETF focused on companies that were working to “reduce arms production, pursue economic justice, protect the environment and encourage corporate responsibility,” would find no such concerns addressed in the Christian Values Fund. 

Methodists, whose specialty ETF sought to invest in “nurturing community, the social community” and to avoid companies producing “harmful products and services” would find no such concerns in the investment guidelines of the Christian Values ETF, which has more than $3 million in total assets.

The closure of an ETF can be problematic for investors holding them in a portfolio. The automatic redemption can be a tax event, triggering a capital gain, experts warn.

So far, 2011 has been a year of expansion for ETFs, with 80 new products added and only a handful of liquidations. But with more than 500 ETFs currently having less than $50 million in assets under management and equities markets weakening, the FaithShares closures could be a sign that more closures are the horizon.


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