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SPDR® ETFs Throughout the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to markets across the globe, impacting liquidity across nearly all investment vehicles and asset classes. Despite these challenges, ETFs have performed well, providing market participants with liquidity and price discovery when they need it most.


The State Street Global Advisors SPDR Capital Markets team analyzed data from across the globe to better understand the performance of ETFs during the pandemic. Learn more about the report below.

Interview with the authors

Liquidity Buffers in Volatile Markets

Born out of the US stock market crash of 1987, ETFs have been tested by numerous market crises. During the COVID-19 crisis, surging ETF trading volume highlights that ETFs continue to function as originally intended — as buffers and sources of liquidity in stressed markets.

  • Globally, ETFs reached record trading volumes in March 2020.
  • ETF trading volumes in the US were highly correlated with March and April’s heightened volatility. 
  • Even with record-high trading volumes, there was very little primary market activity; the secondary market acted as an additional layer of liquidity. 

Liquidity and Price Discovery Tools

Even as bid-ask spreads widen and ETFs trade at wider-than-normal premiums and discounts, investors turn to ETFs to assess the valuation and liquidity of the overall market.

Take a closer look at:

  • Price dislocation in equity ETFs
  • Discounts on fixed income ETFs
  • Gold ETFs versus gold futures  

The Road Ahead Looks Promising

Throughout the pandemic, ETFs have provided investors with liquidity when they need it most. Continuous enhancements from both exchanges and regulators are also instrumental in promoting resilient markets during the crisis.

What does this mean for the future? If trading volume is any indication, expect to see ETF adoption continue to rise.

Respond to Market Shifts

Navigate Ongoing Volatility

Stay up to date on COVID-19’s continuing impact on the markets with our latest research and insight.