PALM DESERT, Calif.-The combined assets of the nation's 956 exchange-traded funds surpassed $1.03 trillion in February, by the tally of the Investment Company Institute.

And if all custodians of such funds decide to provide them charge-free, at some point, "mutual funds will have their hands full," Cary Stier, the U.S. managing partner for asset management services at Deloitte said last week at the ICI 2011 Mutual Funds and Investment Management Services Conference.

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