As more money than ever pours into exchange-traded funds, investors are using increasingly popular and well-established ETFs to buy stocks through passive funds that track equities.

ETFs are soon expected to surpass a record $2 trillion in global assets. Last year marked an all-time high for the industry on the eve of its 20th anniversary, with a $292.7 billion, or 28% rise, in U.S. ETF assets and positive cash flows of $182.6 billion, according to State Street Global Advisors. SSgA offers the industry-leading SPDR ETFs that include the first-ever U.S.-listed ETF, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), which launched on Jan. 29, 1993.

"Passive funds tracking U.S. stocks are gaining popularity as equity markets are on the mend," Global Trends Investments President Tom Lydon wrote on Tuesday, also citing BlackRock CEO Larry Fink: "What we are seeing, and the industry overall, are still a majority of flows moving more into passive."

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