Category Archives: Investor’s Business Daily

ETFs That Track Gold Having A Better Year Than The Stock Market

fter a midsummer rally, gold is now having a better year than the S&P 500 index. And that’s good timing for some new gold ETFs that launched this year.

SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), the largest and oldest ETF in the world which tracks the price of gold, has surged more than 10% since July 7 for a year-to-date return of 16.9% through Sept. 7, according to Morningstar Direct. Meanwhile, SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), which tracks the stock market benchmark, is up 11.5% this year. IShares Gold Trust (IAU), GLD’s main competitor, is also up nearly 17%.

The main reason for the rally is the falling U.S. dollar, which has dropped nearly 10% this year. Some blame comments from President Trump, who said in April that the dollar was “getting too strong.”

But others think it has more to do with interest rates.

“Real interest rates started to go negative and that hurts the dollar. Both the five-year and the two-year (Treasury notes) are now negative,” said Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer of U.S. Global Investors, which launched U.S. Global Go Gold & Precious Metal Miners (GOAU) in June. “When the dollar falls, gold goes up.”

GOAU holds companies engaged in the production of precious metals either through mining or production and specialized financial firms called royalty companies. These royalty companies provide capital to fund exploration and production projects, and in return, receive a stream of royalties. GOAU is up 14% since its launch. It carries an expense ratio of 0.60%.

GraniteShares Gold Trust (BAR) also launched this year, on Aug. 31. Just like GLD and IAU, it holds actual gold bars to track the price of gold. Founded by Will Rhind, who managed GLD for 2-1/2 years before starting GraniteShares, BAR’s big selling point is it’s the lowest-cost gold ETF. It charges an expense ratio of 0.20%, vs. 0.40% for GLD and 0.25% for IAU.

“When you own gold as a hedge, you want the lowest-cost hedge,” said Rhind.

People flock to gold as a hedge when there’s uncertainty in the market. And there had been a lot of uncertainty lately, including deadlines to keep the government funded and raise the debt ceiling.

The Senate on Thursday approved a bill to avert a government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling for three months, as well as $15.25 billion in hurricane relief aid. In August, the president had said he was willing to risk shutting down the government unless he obtained funding for the wall he promised to build between Mexico and the U.S.

Gold hit its all-time high of $1,900 in 2011, during the last government shutdown threat.

“Another key motivation is we’re entering crash season, September and October,” said Brandon White, gold analyst at Bullion Management Group in Toronto. “We haven’t had a (stock market) correction for a number of years. So, people think we may be due for a downturn. So, take money off the table and move it into something that does well in market downturns, and precious metals do well.”

He added that annual gold production is expected to decline 40% going into 2018.

Then there is the saber rattling between Trump and North Korea, which is testing nuclear bombs and firing missiles. Wars always make gold prices go higher and geopolitical tensions are rising between the two countries.

All this has pushed the price of gold through the technical resistance line of $1,300, to $1,349 an ounce.

“A lot of people watching gold have been waiting for gold to challenge the $1,300-resistance line. It was tested three times last week,” said White. “When money managers consider an asset to revert to the upside from a downtrend, they will often wait for a 20% move. The resistance line was a key technical indicator that needed to be broken before sentiment turned. Now interest is back. It’s not so much a speculative trade as a defensive trade.”

And interest is definitely back.

Gold-backed ETFs saw net inflow of $1.6 billion in August, according to the World Gold Council. North American ETFs drove global inflow. GLD led inflow with $1.03 billion, or 3.2% of its assets under management, and IAU received $266 million, or $3.1% of AUM.

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What Happens When HACK Gets Hacked By Insider

Investors in the PureFunds ISE Cyber Security ETF (HACK) woke up Aug. 1 to find their fund had a new name, ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF, and tracks a new index.

a stunning development, the fund’s advisor, ETF Management Group, had rebranded the entire family of PureFunds ETFs with the ETFMG name, and began following indexes from a new firm called Prime Indexes.

Since the change, $36 million has flowed out of HACK, which has $1.1 billion in assets, according to Morningstar Inc. The outflow has coincided with a pullback in cybersecurity stocks and the ETFs that invest in them.

While HACK’s old and new indexes both track the same securities, there were some slight changes in the new index to conform with a new methodology and improve implied liquidity, said Sam Masucci, chief executive of ETF Management Group. The change had little effect on the share price.

The story highlights the issues small asset managers without infrastructure can run into. ETF MG is known as the advisor. It provides the infrastructure for operating the ETF and portfolio management, as well as manages the third-party relationships with outsourced services, such as custodians, legal and auditing. ETF MG has 13 funds on the market.

PureFunds was the sponsor, covering most of the costs. Typically, the sponsor’s role is branding, marketing and consumer education. ETF MG is now the sponsor.

Unlike the ETFs of most small asset managers, when HACK launched in 2014 it was an immediate hit. It quickly gathered $1 billion in assets. Andrew Chanin, Pure Funds’ chief executive, was lauded as an ETF wunderkind. Altogether, PureFunds launched eight funds with ETF MG, six of which will continue under the ETF MG name. The other two were closed in July.

“People come to us with ideas that we turn into ETFs and operate. We are a comprehensive service company,” said Masucci. “Their role is market education. With more than a dozen partners, we’ve only had one that went this direction.”

Masucci said the dispute started in April when the board voted to lower the fund’s expense ratio to 0.6% from 0.75% in order to better compete with First Trust Nasdaq Cybersecurity ETF (CIBR), which charges 0.6%. At the point, HACK had $950 million in assets, while CIBR had $218 million.

“I alerted Andrew, and the Nasdaq and Andrew sued us,” said Masucci. “When Andrew sued us he violated provisions in our agreement precluding him from taking any actions that interfered with the operation of the fund. We would have not terminated them if they had not sued us.”

Masucci also said that Chanin did not originate the idea for the fund. He said that came from Kris Monaco and his team at ETF Ventures, a division of ISE, which was later acquired by Nasdaq. Masucci said Nasdaq disbanded the ETF Ventures team. Monaco, who was instrumental in creating the index that PureFunds ISE Cyber Security tracked, is one of the founders of Prime Indexes, which is providing the new index for the fund.

Chanin disputes the claims by ETF MG. He said PureFunds and ISE were partners and they hired ETF MG, not the other way around. And that it was PureFunds and its partners that helped cover the fund’s expenses.

In the complaint filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, PureFunds claims that ETF MG was retained to “empower” PureFunds to launch their ETFs. PureFunds alleges that ETF MG “trumped up false securities violations” with the purpose of obtaining control of the PureFunds business to pocket millions in annual revenue. It also alleges that ETF MG reduced the “profit” that PureFunds was to receive from “their ETFs.”

“The pressure on asset managers to reduce their fees is as great as it’s ever been,” said Ben Johnson, Morningstar’s director of global ETFs research. “The vast majority of flows are going into the ones with absolute rock-bottom expense ratios. That’s the trend.”

HACK has risen 10.4% this year, but is down 4.8% in the past three months. CIBR, which was launched in June 2015, is up 8.3% this year, but also down 4.8% the past three months.

CIBR now has $275.6 million in assets.

The two funds have similar top holdings. HACK’s 39 holdings as of Aug. 15 were topped by Cisco Systems at 4.75%, Palo Alto Networks at 4.49% and Symantec at 4.12%. CIBR top holdings were Palo Alto Networks at 6.87%, Cisco Systems at 6.31%, and Akamai Technologies at 6.09%.

The other funds affected by the change, with assets and expense ratios:

This was originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Why Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful Puts Most Of His Cash In ETFs

When people see Kevin O’Leary, Mr. Wonderful on the TV show “Shark Tank,” they see a man willing to invest thousands of dollars in risky startups based on only a 10-minute presentation.

But the truth is, O’Leary’s a man who’s invested the bulk of his fortune in ETFs. In addition to “Shark Tank,” he heads O’Shares, an ETF family created to meet his specific investing needs.

The seven ETFs track indexes created by FTSE Russell that follow O’Leary’s investing criteria. Each company in the indexes must have 1) attractive operating metrics as defined by return on assets; 2) 20% less volatility than the market; 3) pay dividends. The portfolio must have no more than 5% in any one company and no more than 20% in a sector.

“People see me on ‘Shark Tank’ and think I’m the Wild West,” said O’Leary. “But I’m not. I’m an extremely conservative investor. My concern is preservation, and I want to make 5% a year forever. It’s not easy to do.”

O’Leary made his millions as a founder of Softkey, a publisher and distributor of CD-ROM-based software. It later bought Learning Co. and took its name. In 1999, Mattel acquired the company for $4.2 billion.

He put most of that money into a trust for his children that would pay out 5% every year in perpetuity. He wanted the trust invested 100% all the time and rebalanced every January back to 50% equity and 50% fixed income. He used the five investing criteria he would later use for the ETFs and said there could be no leverage or derivatives.

The annual 5% payout couldn’t come from return of capital, only interest, dividends or capital appreciation. When bonds paid 6.5%, the target 5% payout was easy to make. But as the yield on U.S. Treasuries fell, making 5% became a challenge without inordinate risk.

“Over the years, I’ve used every asset class: private equity, hedge funds, even alternative asset classes like owning forests,” said O’Leary. “You name it, I’ve done it.”

He said he found it interesting and frustrating that no matter who he hired or how successful, after about seven years, the manager’s strategy would blow up or go flat. He then decided to build his own mutual funds, and noted that his managers were using ETFs to “plug holes in periods where they needed to do allocations.” He tried to use ETFs for his trust, but every index violated at least one of his criteria, usually an outsize weighting in one stock.

He then went to the folks at FTSE Russell and asked them to make an index based on his criteria that would cover the equity portion of the stock/bond portfolio. They said “no.” They don’t make indexes for individuals, but they would test his idea to see if it had market potential. Out of that came O’Shares FTSE U.S. Quality Dividend ETF (OUSA). While capital preservation and yield are the fund’s mandate, not benchmark outperformance, in 2016 it beat the S&P 500: 12.3% vs. 11.96%. The yield on OUSA is 2.3%, compared with the S&P’s 1.9%. The expense ratio is 0.48%.

“Kevin’s approach to looking at dividend growth and cash flow is something that we think adds benefit to our equity weightings,” said Rob Stein, chief executive at Astor Investment Management, a Chicago RIA with $2 billion under management. The firm builds portfolios exclusively out of ETFs. “We believe O’Shares’ approach makes sense for analyzing stock selection, so we don’t have to drill down in individual stock selection. It’s a concept that makes sense to us and it’s being done rigorously.”

For geographic diversification, O’Leary asked FTSE Russell to build O’Shares FTSE Europe Quality Dividend ETF (OEUR) and a currency-hedged version O’Shares FTSE Europe Quality Dividend Hedged ETF (OEUH), which removes the effect of currency fluctuations. Then came O’Shares FTSE Asia Pacific Quality Dividend ETF (OASI) and its hedged version O’Shares FTSE Asia Pacific Quality Dividend Hedged ETF (OAPH). In 2016, OASI beat the MSCI AC Asia Pacific Index 7.82% to 5.21% and yielded 2.8%.

O’Leary then asked Russell to build O’Shares FTSE U.S. Small Cap Quality Dividend ETF (OUSM).

While on “Shark Tank,” O’Leary has invested in 40 companies, but he said he wouldn’t put any of them in his trust. They are too high-risk.

“I love the ETF industry and the innovation that is going on in it,” said O’Leary. “And I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Interactive Brokers Aims For Best Platform, Lowest Price

Interactive Brokers Group has broken into the top ranks of online brokers, excelling in several categories deemed important to investors.

Interactive (IBKR) joins four other brokers in the top five for overall customer experience in Investor’s Business Daily’s annual ranking of online brokers.

The nation’s largest electronic broker in terms of daily average revenue trades, Interactive won top marks for low commissions and fees, trade reliability, site performance, equity trading tools, mobile platforms/mobile trading opportunities, options trading platform, portfolio analysis and reports, and ETF choices.

The message seems to be getting out to investors. In 2015, when the stock market ended slightly lower, the Greenwich, Conn., company saw the number of accounts grow by 18%, and 1% in December alone, to 331,100. Client equity increased 19% year over year to $67.4 billion.

Comprising two segments, a global electronic broker and a market maker, the firm processes trades in securities, futures, foreign-exchange instruments, bonds and mutual funds on more than 100 electronic exchanges around the world.

Hungarian immigrant Thomas Peterffy founded the firm in 1977 and launched the Interactive Brokers platform in 1995. Since then it has become one of the leading brokers for professional and semiprofessional investors, as well as institutions.

Biggest And Cheapest Broker

Still serving as chairman and chief executive, Peterffy said his firm is the largest and least-expensive stock broker in the world. In December 2015, the firm recorded 628,000 DARTs and an average commission per client order of $2.09 for securities and $6.33 for options. For orders of 100 shares, it charges just $1. He also said the average amount charged for a margin loan is 1.3%, which undercuts all of the firm’s competitors.

“Our philosophy is to offer the best platform at the lowest price,” Peterffy said in an interview with Investor’s Business Daily. “We don’t sell our customers orders, but seek to execute them at the best possible price. The total transaction cost on 2.5 trillion stocks, including market impact and fees, was 0.8 basis points.”

He said the firm sits in a sweet spot between investment banks and online brokers.

“The online brokers don’t need all the sophisticated stuff we provide, and the big investment banks will not take people with less than $5 million,” Peterffy said. “Our target clients are sophisticated individuals or institutional traders and investors.”

Over the past year, Interactive added a lot of research, news providers and analyst ratings to the platform. It also introduced a portfolio builder that allows clients to screen stocks based on fundamental and technical data, assemble portfolios that automatically rebalance and lets them back-test the portfolio’s performance over various time periods.

Investor’s Marketplace

Another feature Interactive introduced last year to help set itself apart is transparency. Interactive now lets clients see the number of shortable shares available in real time without having to call the broker. It also lets clients see the lending rate at which stocks may be borrowed to be shorted. You won’t find this at the wirehouses.

In 2015, it also launched a service called the Investor’s Marketplace, which gives clients one-stop shopping access to investors and third-party service providers around the globe. It’s a place where traders, investors, financial advisors, fund managers, research analysts, technology providers and business developers can advertise, explore and do business with each other.

Part of the Investor’s Marketplace will be the Hedge Fund Marketplace, where qualified investors may view and download information posted by participating hedge funds, including private placement memoranda, subscription information and performance summaries.

As of June 2015, the Marketplace had more than 300 advisors, brokers, money managers and hedge funds, 120 research providers, 75 administrative service providers and 295 participating technology providers.

In 2016, the company planned to relaunch Covestor, an online money manager it acquired in 2015. Covestor lists money managers and traders who run investment portfolios. Clients will be able choose a money manager and set up accounts that mirror the managers’ portfolio, essentially trading along with the manager.

To View IBD’s Full Best Online Brokers Report

This was originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

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Emerging Market ETFs Rally in Spite of Trump Trade Threat

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, emerging-market ETFs tumbled as investors feared that the new administration’s protectionist trade policies would hurt the countries in these markets. But then a funny thing happened. After ranking as one of the worst-performing sectors in the last quarter of 2016, emerging- market ETFs began the new year with a rally and are outperforming U.S. stocks.

So far this year, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) has jumped 10%, iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) leapt 10%, and the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) climbed 10% vs. 5% for the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY).

Part of the reason is that prior to the election, 2016 had been a pretty good year for emerging markets. Because many emerging markets are tied to commodities, the prior four years had been pretty bad because of falling commodity prices and slowing growth in China. But in 2016, commodity prices began to rise and China’s economic slowdown stabilized.

A big part of the postelection drop was out of concern for the economy of Mexico should Trump attempt to renegotiate Nafta and anxiety over trade barriers with China, according to Mitch Tuchman, chief investment officer at Rebalance IRA, a retirement investment advisor, in Palo Alto, Calif.

Robert Johnson, Morningstar’s director of economic analysis, said the recent performance is a continuation of last year’s rally. He also said companies and investors have begun to think that, in the wake of Trump’s mishandling of the immigration ban, he might not be able to implement his trade policies, especially as he gets pushback from industries hurt by trade bans and tariffs.

Also, since the trade policies haven’t yet been defined and investors think most emerging markets, besides Mexico and China, won’t be affected, they’re jumping back in.

“After five years of underperformance, emerging markets were oversold, and the election flushed out the remaining people hanging on,” said Gerald Laurain, chief investment officer with FTB Advisors, an RIA in Memphis, Tenn., with $4 billion in assets under management. “So now that they’ve established a low, the only place to go isup.”

J.J. Feldman, a portfolio manager at Miracle Mile Advisors, a Los Angeles-based RIA, said the valuations are much more compelling. The price/earnings ratio on the emerging markets is 12 vs. an expensive 18 on the S&P 500. He added that emerging- market stocks are yielding 2.25% vs. the S&P’s 2%.

Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, an asset manger in Westport, Conn., has a different angle. “When there is protectionism, America is the loser,” he said. “And tariffs will backfire. People are making the connection that it will weaken the dollar. Meanwhile, the euro is bottoming out and that is better for emerging markets.”

“Europe seems to be doing better, and it’s more important to China than the U.S.,” said Johnson. “There’s better growth there, no new rules and other markets they can sell into.”

So far through this year, the top country-specific ETFs are all in emerging markets. IShares MSCI Brazil Small-Cap (EWZS) has soared 30%, VanEck Vectors Brazil Small-Cap (BRF) surged 26%, iShares Brazil Capped (EWZ) is up 18%, Global X MSCI Argentina (ARGT) up 16%, and KraneShares CSI China Internet (KWEB) up 16%.

After a brutal two-year recession in Brazil, during which President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and replaced by Michel Temer, the country is finally expected to be on the road to recovery. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles expects the Brazilian economy to return to a 2% annual growth pace by the last quarter of the year. Wall Street is forecasting a more realistic 0.2% growth rate in 2017 gross domestic product. Brazil’s economy is driven by resources and commodities. Its top commodity exports are oil, iron ore, soybeans, sugar cane and coffee.

While China is seeing its economy slowing, with GDP expected to post growth of 6.7% for 2016, that’s the kind of slowdown most country’s would kill for. Right now China is dealing with a cooling housing market, explosive growth in debt, and painful structural reforms instituted by President Xi Jinping.

“E-commerce is going well and that is tapping into a strong part of the economy,” said Rob Lutts, president and chief investment officer of Cabot Wealth Management, an RIA, in Salem, Mass. Lutts spends a lot of time traveling in China. “Investing in Alibaba is like investing in Amazon.com.”

Lutts said that China will have a big challenge over the next five years with a big debt bubble that will have to be distributed over the rest of the economy. This will bring the economic growth rate down to 5% by 2020. “They will have stress when the real estate bubble comes down in price, and that will hurt the smaller banks in the next six months.”

But Lutts is very bullish on India. For the fiscal year ended March 2016, India’s economy grew 7.9%, and Lutts said it could go higher. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is instituting reforms to remove government obstacles to business and make the government more efficient. Lutts said his favorite way to invest in India is in the financial services sector.

He thinks HDFC Bank is one of the best-managed banks in the world. It’s also the top holding of iShares MSCI India ETF (INDA), No. 3 in WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI), No. 2 in iShares India 50 ETF (INDY) and No. 3 in PowerShares India Portfolio (PIN). The ETFs’ year-to-date gains range from 8.8% to 9.8%.

Overall, all the experts think that because Europe is growing and Trump’s policies are still undefined, emerging markets should keep rising throughout the year.

Orginally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Can China ETFs Continue Their Ascent?

China ETFs’ recent gyrations are enough to give one whiplash. Many have behaved like the Shanghai Composite Index recently. After soaring 152% over the previous 12 months — 60% this year alone — to a seven-year high on June 12, the benchmark for mainland China’s stock market hit a significant speed bump.

Last week the index stumbled 13% into a much-anticipated correction. A 5% rally the first three days of this week gave way to selling Thursday, cutting the week’s gain so far to 1%.

“The sheer increase in prices this year is something that makes me want to stand back,” said John Rutledge, chief investment strategist for Safanad, an investment house in New York. “I don’t know any fundamental reason why prices should have doubled this year, and that price behavior sounds like a bubble.”

Rutledge is referring to the fact that the Chinese economy’s growth rate has slowed to a six-year low of 7%. But if fundamental analysis can’t explain it, macroeconomics can. With central banks all over the world cutting interest rates, there is flood of liquidity looking for returns.

The first thing to know is that there are two markets in China. The Hong Kong market, which has long been open to global investors, trades what are known as H-shares. Then there are the mainland markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen. They trade A-shares, which had been limited to domestic investors.

But last year the Shanghai and Hong Kong markets created a system that let global investors buy A-shares and domestic investors buy H-shares. This change has brought a lot of money to the mainland markets.

On top of that, the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, has cut interest rates three times since November, and more cuts are expected.

Finally, throw in a slowdown in the Chinese real estate market. It led the Chinese government to encourage investments in stocks by making it easier for Chinese retail investors to open accounts and buy stocks on margin.

Loss Of Liquidity

And a loss of liquidity sparked last week’s correction. First, Chinese regulators, worried that the market was getting overleveraged, tightened the rules on margin trading. Then a slew of initial public offerings sucked up a lot of cash.

There’s no doubt that China is risky. But gains could resume if the economy picks up and government stimulus programs continue. And index provider MSCI is evaluating A-shares for inclusion in its emerging markets index. That could spark demand by many funds that track MSCI indexes.

If you want China A-Shares in your portfolio, investing in ETFs is the way to go. KraneShares offers four ETFs focused on China. Its Bosera MSCI China A ETF (ARCA:KBA) holds more than 300 large-cap and midcap stocks on both the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges.

KraneShares says that these are the stocks that would be included in an MSCI emerging markets index. KBA is up 40% year to date and 126% in the past 12 months. It has an expense ratio of 0.85%.

Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (ARCA:ASHR) tracks the CSI 300 Index, which holds the largest and most liquid stocks in the A-share market. It’s up 35% year to date and 129% for the past year. It charges 0.8% of assets for expenses.
Market Vectors ChinaAMC A-Share ETF (ARCA:PEK) also tracks the CSI 300 index but charges less: 0.72%. It’s up 39% year to date and 132% in the 12 months. The big difference is that ASHR is more liquid and offers a 0.2% yield, while PEK offers none.

As liquidity improves in July, David Goldman, managing director of investment firm Reorient Group, sees a market recovery and a move back up beyond the 5,000 level for the Shanghai Composite.

“Economic fundamentals are clearly improving, and so are regulatory incentives for stock market growth,” he wrote this week.

Originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.

Comparing ETFs? Don’t Just Look At Expense Ratios

The rule when buying ETFs is that when all things are equal, buy the one with the lowest expense ratio. But remember that similar sounding ETFs often aren’t equal. This means don’t let the expense ratio be the only factor in choosing an ETF.

“Our belief is expenses and past performance matter, but more important is understanding what’s inside the portfolio,” said Todd Rosenbluth, S&P Capital IQ director of ETF research.

SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) tracks the S&P 500 stock index and charges a tiny expense ratio of 0.09%, commonly called nine basis points. One hundred basis points make up 1 percentage point. Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP) also tracks the S&P 500. But it charges a fee of 0.4% of assets.

Look At The Performance

“You might ask ‘Who in their right mind would pay 40 basis points vs. 9?'” said Ron Delegge, founder of ETFguide. “But then you take a look at the 10-year return.”

RSP returned an average annual 9.42% in the past 10 years, compared with 7.85% for SPY, according to Morningstar. In fact, RSP beats SPY in all periods reported on Morningstar.com, from one month on.

The big difference between the funds is the way the indexes are weighted. SPY follows the S&P 500’s classic market-capitalization weighting, which multiplies the stock price by the number of shares outstanding to get a stock’s market value. The biggest companies get a larger weighting, comprising a greater percentage of the index than the smaller ones. Thus a $1 move in Apple (AAPL), with a 3.98% weighting, will lift or drag down the index much more than a $1 move in the shares of Diamond Offshore Drilling (DO), which has a weighting of just 0.01%.

But RSP gives every stock in the index an equal weighting of 0.2%. This means a $1 rise in Diamond Offshore’s stock moves the index just as much as a $1 increase in Apple’s shares. By giving greater weight to the smaller stocks in the index, this has a big effect on the fund’s performance. Year to date, RSP is up 2.25% vs. SPY’s 1.29%, 96 basis points more — after paying the expense ratio.

“Would I be willing to pay more for those returns?” asks Delegge. “Definitely.”

Of course, SPY could just as easily outperform RSP in periods when the market favors large-cap stocks or other factors that can be found in SPY but not RSP.

But S&P 500 trackers aren’t alone. “One example that is much maligned is PowerShares FTSE RAFI U.S. 1000 ETF (PRF), said Michael Krause, president of AltaVista Research in New York, which runs the ETF Research Center website. “I calculate that cumulative since its inception in 2006, PRF has outperformed iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB) by 14 percentage points.”

ETF Research Center pegs PRF’s average annual return since 2006 at 8.9% vs. 8.1% for IWB.

PRF’s expense ratio is 0.39%, while IWB charges 0.15% of assets.

Not Alone

This trend happens a lot among the industry ETFs. SPDR S&P Homebuilders ETF (XHB) and iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) sound like they track the same industry, meaning they should post similar results. XHB charges 0.35%, while ITB charges 0.45%, so XHB seems like a better choice.

Yet only 35% of the XHB holdings are actual homebuilding companies, and 28% building products. The rest of the stocks are home furnishing producers and retailers, home improvement retailers and household appliance makers. However, homebuilding companies make up 71% of the ITB portfolio, with building products at 13%.

ITB has risen by an annual average of 25.72% in the past three years vs. 21.01% for XHB. Year to date, ITB is up 8.32% vs. XHB’s 6.74%. That more than compensates for the extra 10 basis points.

“Cheaper hasn’t been better as of late,” said Rosenbluth.

Originally published in Investor’s Business Daily.