ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Michael Krause has ESP for ETFs (exchange traded funds).

Instead of using a crystal ball, though, the president of AltaVista Independent Research looks at the fundamentals of every one of an ETF’s constituents.

Thanks to the transparency inherent in ETFs, he knows exactly what’s in a fund at all times.
"It’s possible to calculate potential, sales growth, margin, cash flow,
dividends, evaluation metrics…You can evaluate an ETF with stuff
you’d use to measure an individual stock. It’s a lot more informative
about the future."

Sometimes his research and conclusions draw some fire. Last year, he wrote a piece for Seeking Alpha calling then-red hot China a bubble. He got a ton of hate mail.

"It’s not about the Chinese people or their economic achievements. Even
in a great economy, at some point stocks become expensive," Krause
says. "You have to divorce yourself from the emotion."

Sure enough, China had a rough start to the year, down about 12% year-to-date after being up about 53% for 2007. At some points this year, it was down more than 20%.

Krause takes the forward-looking approach that’s summarized in the line seen at the bottom of every prospectus: Past performance is not an indicator of future results. "Investing is about the future. It’s always about the future."

He isn’t doing his research so he can tell people which investments to
choose. When he compares two similar-sounding funds and finds
differences between the two, "That doesn’t make one better than the
other. They might be appropriate for two different people and no one
had bothered to analyze the difference."

Because his analysis dives right into the fundamentals of the companies
held in an ETF, Krause stays away from the arguments about which index
weighting is superior. People get into esoteric arguments, but "you can
avoid all those and just simply measure what’s in the portfolio."

Krause just wants to provide people with a product they can’t get
anywhere else, and give ETF providers the tools to give investors
objective research that will help them make their decisions. Technical
analysis is easily available, but research that analyzes the
fundamentals doesn’t come easy.

So, what predictions does Krause have for the current markets?

He dismisses the theory of decoupling. "The notion that the U.S. is going to be alone is hogwash."

His research is also pointing to financials as a bargain, "But some people rightly don’t want to catch a falling knife."

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.