Tag Archives: VTI

Vanguard Takes 4 of 5 Best for 2011

Steven Goldberg at Kiplinger.com writes a lot about ETFs. He starts out his article on the 5 best ETFs for 2011, telling you the worst ones to buy.

He doesn’t like tiny ETFs that invest in a single industry or a single country. I don’t like tiny ETFs, too much risk with an unproven idea. But single industry ETFs can be quite useful. Do you think the oil industry is going to rally this year? Buy the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE).He doesn’t like exchange-traded notes, which are essentially debt instruments backed only by the company that issues them. These can be risky too, as in the case of Lehman ETNs. However, I think for most firms, credit risk is not an issue.

Goldberg thinks the majority of ETFs are little more than high-priced gimmicks. Definitely true for some. However, he doesn’t like the WisdomTree family of ETFs, which weights holdings based on dividends or earnings rather than on the more-traditional basis of market capitalization. I think dividend-weighted indexes have less volatility and don’t fall as much in market crashes. I do agree that actively managed ETFs aren’t ready for prime time, either.

Goldberg likes:

  • Vanguard Mega Cap 300 Growth (MGK), he says put 40% of your portfolio in this.
  • iShares MSCI EAFE Growth Index (EFG)
  • Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)
  • Vanguard Europe Pacific (VEA)
  • Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock (VWO)

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join Em

If you can’t beat ’em, join em.

The word Vanguard describes the person or entity at the forefront in any movement, field, or activity. While the Vanguard Group mutual fund company led the charge into index funds for retail investors, it hasn’t been able to take that position in the ETF field.

On Tuesday, Vanguard announced it would sell its entire line-up of ETFs commission-free to its brokerage clients. This comes on the heels of Charles Schwab and iShares offering commission-free ETFs. However, by offering all 46 of its ETFs, Vanguard now offers the largest selection of funds without commissions. Vanguard also lowered the fees to trade stocks and non-Vanguard ETFs to the range of $2 to $7.

Three months ago, iShares offered to sell 25 of its ETFs on a commission-free basis on the Fidelity Investments platform. This came in response to Schwab’s move to offer free ETF trades on its Web site when it launched its first ETFs in November.

Since ETFs trade on stock exchanges, they must be bought through brokers. Hence, investors must pay commissions. These commissions have been one reason standing in the way of investors using ETFs in a dollar-cost averaging investment strategy. Because of this many no-load mutual funds have been able to withstand competition from ETFs. Even with just $10 trades, this comes out to a 10% on a monthly dollar-cost averaging investment of $100. By removing commissions, these firms are taking direct aim at the no-load mutual fund business.

Already, Vanguard posted significant growth in its ETF division. It’s the third-largest ETF company in terms of assets with $108.8 billion at the end of April, more than double the $50.7 billion in the year-ago month. Year-to-date, Vanguard has seen the most net cash inflows in the industry, $11.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Vanguard ETF’s offer some of the lowest expense ratios in the ETF industry, with an average of just 0.18%, compared with the industry average of 0.52% according to Lipper. With the addition of commission-free trades, Vanguard could see its growth rate increase even further.

Its top selling ETFs are the $24 billion Vanguard Emerging Markets ETF (VWO), the $15 billion Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI), and the $7 billion Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND), according to Bloomberg.

For more commentary see:

The Wall Street Journal

Investment News

ETF Trends

Index Universe

Schwab Puts Nail into Mutual Funds’ Coffin

Charles Schwab knocked down one of the last barriers mutual funds held over ETFs, commission free trading, with the launch of its new family of ETFs on Monday.

That’s right. Free!

Previously free was the sole province of the no-load fund, mutual funds that refuse to charge investors a commission to buy or sell their shares. ETFs, because they trade on the stock exchange, require investors to buy and sell shares through a registered stockbroker. And if there’s one thing you can say about stockbrokers, they don’t trade for free. That means every time an investor wants to buy and sell ETF shares, she needs to pay a commission. While discount brokers have reduced the commission to below $20 a trade, this remains a significant fee for small investors following a dollar-cost averaging schedule.

Until now that is.

Open up an account with Schwab and you can trade any of the new Schwab ETFs for free. The catch? Only the new Schwab ETFs trade for free and only when you buy online. Want to buy online an ETF from another company in your Schwab account? That commission starts at at 12.95. Still, it’s a big deal and it will make a big difference for small investors who either day trade or use a dollar-cost averaging strategy.

Dollar-cost averaging is the strategy of investing a steady amount of money into the stock market on a regular basis, such as weekly, monthly or quarterly. The strategy holds two purposes. One, it forces you to save money and invest it on a regular basis. Second, it’s a form or risk management that averages your cost basis. If you had $50,000, and you wanted to put it into the stock market, you could put it all in a variety of investment vehicles in one day. The big risk is that the market falls soon afterward, providing you with an opportunity to have bought even more at a cheaper price. By investing say $1,000 a week, you can average out the year’s volatility and make it work for you.

If the share price falls, because you didn’t put it all in at once, you get an opportunity to buy at a lower price, and get more shares. If the share price rises, you do get less than you would have earlier, but you’re making a profit, your shares are rising.

Realizing investors want to put their feet back into the market, but have lost a taste for niche portfolios; Schwab has created eight conservative, broad-based ETFs to grab the widest audience.

· Schwab U.S. Broad Market ETF (SCHB) – this tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Broad Stock Market Index, a market-cap weighted benchmark that contains the 2,500 largest stocks in the U.S. market. This provides a comparable index for people who want to track the Russell 3000. The expense ratio is 0.08%, which comes in one basis point lower than the Vanguard’s Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) and less than half the 0.21% charged by the iShares Russell 3000 Index (IWV).

· Schwab U.S. Large-Cap ETF (SCHX), which follows the DJ U.S. Large-Cap Total Market Index, a cap-weighted index of the 750 largest U.S. companies. This is Schwab’s alternative to the S&P 500 Index. It also charges 0.08%, compared with 0.09% on the SPDR.

· Schwab U.S. Small-Cap ETF (SCHA). This follows the DJ U.S. SmallCap Total Stock Market Index, the 1750 members of the DJ U.S. Broad Market Index not included in the large-cap index above. This would be analogous to the Russell 2000 small-cap index.

· Schwab International Equity ETF (SCHF). The tracks an index by FTSE, the people who made the benchmark for the British stock market. The FTSE Developed ex-US Index holds about 85% large-cap stocks and 15% small-cap from more than 20 developed markets outside the U.S. It charges an expense ratio of 0.15%.

By the end of the year, Schwab expects to launch four more ETFs to track large-cap growth, large-cap value, international small-cap and emerging markets.

The no-load ETF appears to be part of Schwab’s broader strategy to become the lowest-cost provider in the ETF space. In addition to no commissions, the Schwab ETFs either beat or match the expense ratios of its nearest competitors, making them the lowest priced ETFs on the market.

This follows Schwab’s move in May to lower the expense ratios on all its no-load equity index funds with a minimum investment of $100. At the time Schwab lowered the expense ratio on its Schwab S&P 500 Index Fund to nine basis points, the same charge as the SPDR and half the cost of the Vanguard 500 Index fund, the benchmark for low cost index funds.

Funds Hold GM to the Bitter End

What does a company need to do to get kicked off of an index around here?

As of Friday, General Motors was still in the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. If the indexes hold the stock until the company declares bankruptcy are the index funds and ETFs that track indexes with GM as a component obligated to hold it to the bitter end? Are they are allowed to sell it ahead of time or do they have to suck up the loss, even though everyone saw this coming from a mile away?

According to AOL Money & Finance, all of GM’s shares are now owned by large block holders. Institutions hold 36%, mutual funds, which includes ETFs, hold 62% and the rest with others like the executives. State Street Global Advisors hold the most GM shares of any institution, 26.9 million, or 4.37% of all the GM shares outstanding. Surprisingly, only 5.26 million of those shares reside in the SPDR Trust (SPY). Still that’s a big loss for one fund no matter how you slice it. Vanguard Group has the second most shares, 23.99 million, or 3.93% of the shares outstanding. However, four of its funds are in the top 10 holders, the Vanguard 500 Index (VFINX) has the most shares of any fund, 5.8 million. This is followed by Vanguard Mid-Cap Index Fund (VO), Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI) and Vanguard Institutional Index Fund. Barclays Global Investors, owner still of the iShares ETF family, comes in third with 17.8 million shares.

The shocking part is that according to Standard & Poor’s, a component of the S&P 500 needs to have a market cap of at least $3 billion. With 610 million shares outstanding, GM would have to trade at $5 to make that. But GM last saw $5 on its shares on Dec. 8, 2008, more than five months ago. It’s not like S&P doesn’t remove stocks from the index. It’s deleted nine companies already this year.

Peter Cohan knows how to evaluate a company. He’s amazing at looking under the hood and breaking apart a company’s financial statements to see the rotting husk of a business. At Daily Finance, he says the failure of GM matters because it shows of success can lead to failure and how now the U.S. can’t even fail right. Companies can’t shut down without government intervention. He adds that the U.S. system of economic growth, venture-backed innovation, has been nearly snuffed out and that is not good news.

Cohan also list the five big reasons why GM didn’t have to fail and squarely lays the blame at the feat of managers who were overly impressed with themselves for no good reason. The five reasons: 1) bad financial policies, 2) Uncompetitive vehicles, 3) ignoring competition, 4) failure to innovate, 5) managing the bubble. Ignoring the competition and failure to innovate are the worst crimes and that should justify Rick Wagoner’s firing pretty easily.