Canadian ETFs attracted net inflows of $3.7 billion in May, matching March 2016 for the highest monthly inflows ever, according to statistics from National Bank of Canada, released on Friday.

The most popular category was equity ETFs, with the overall category attracting $2.1 billion. By sector, Canadian equity was the most popular, with net inflows of $1.2 billion, followed by international equity with $740 million.  Fixed-income ETFs attracted net inflows of $1.4 billion, primarily into a low-cost broad market index ETFs and actively managed preferred share ETFs.

The largest two providers in Canada, BlackRock Asset Management Canada Ltd.'s iShares division and Bank of Montreal, both based in Toronto, each had inflows surpassing $1 billion in May. Seven other providers also had sizable inflows as the ETF industry experienced a "frenzy of asset-gathering," according to the report.

A couple of relatively new ETF providers, including mutual fund firm Mackenzie Financial Corp. and insurance giant Manulife Financial Corp., both of Toronto, contributed to the busy ETF activity.

Two new firms also entered the ETF market for the first time in May, bringing the total number of ETF providers to 24, up from 18 at the start of the year. The newcomers included Excel Funds Management Inc. of Mississauga, Ont. and Franklin Templeton Investments Corp. of Toronto.

Read: Franklin Templeton's new ETFs hit the market

Read: ETFs are the next stage of "evolution" at Excel

ETF inflows totalled $12.2 billion for the five months ended May 31, bringing total Canadian ETF assets under management to $130 billion.

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