(Adds U.S. industry figures)
By Trevor Hunnicutt
NEW YORK, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Investors funneled $375 billion into exchange-traded funds in 2016, investment manager BlackRock Inc said on Tuesday, a global record that came as investors looked to cut costs.
The total, which is preliminary, compares with $348 billion in 2015 and includes a record $286 billion haul in the United States, home to the funds' biggest market.
ETFs are a basket of stocks or other assets traded by individual investors and institutions. Fund managers from BlackRock to Vanguard and Schwab offer index ETFs that try to track, not beat, the market. They have sliced management fees on some funds to as little as $3 annually for every $10,000 managed. All three companies announced price cuts last year.
Those low fees along with other cost savings and conveniences have helped the more than $3 trillion ETF business take assets from rival financial products, including actively managed funds that attempt to beat the market but may fall short of that goal.
U.S.-based active stock funds recorded $288 billion in withdrawals in 2016, the largest on record, according to preliminary Thomson Reuters Lipper data through November.
ETF issuers were also able to draw investors into "smart beta" products that often attempt to beat the markets but do so based on a set of rules governing how they invest, rather than a portfolio manager making those calls. The products can be pricier for investors than traditional index funds while still undercutting active managers.
"The fact that we're at new-record inflows with such a slow start is a pretty strong reversal," said David Perlman, an ETF researcher at UBS.
Markets started 2016 in bad shape, after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised rates and as oil prices cratered. Stocks managed to rebound from a February low, but events including the U.S. presidential race and the British vote to exit the European Union kept investors skittish.
Money moved to the perceived safety of the fixed-income market, and BlackRock's early data showed bond ETFs taking in a record $115 billion in 2016.
BlackRock, with $1.3 trillion in global ETF assets, is the largest provider of such funds. Its iShares ETF brand attracted $140 billion globally during the year, BlackRock said, describing that figure as a record.
In the U.S., BlackRock attracted $105 billion into ETFs during the year, followed by Vanguard's $94 billion, State Street's $52 billion and Schwab's $16 billion, according to separate estimates by FactSet Research Systems Inc. (Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Tom Brown and Alan Crosby)