ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Fund holdings affect fund performance more than fees or past performance. A cheap fund is not necessarily a good fund. A fund that has done well in the past is not likely to do well in the future (e.g. 5-star kiss of death and active management has long history of underperformance). Yet, traditional fund research focuses only on low fees and past performance.

Our research on holdings enables investors to find funds with high quality holdings – AND – low fees.

Investors are good at picking cheap funds. We want them to be better at picking funds with good stocks. Both are required to maximize success. We make this easy with our predictive fund ratings. A fund’s predictive rating is based on its holdings, its total costs, and how it ranks when compared to the rest of the 6700+ ETFs and mutual funds we cover.

Figure 1 shows that 69% of fund assets are in ETFs and mutual funds with low costs but only 1% of assets are in ETFs and mutual funds with Attractive holdings. This discrepancy is astounding.

Figure 1: Allocation of Fund Assets By Holdings Quality and By Costs

Sources: New Constructs, LLC and company filings

Two key shortcomings in the ETF and mutual fund industry cause this large discrepancy:

  1. A lack of research into the quality of holdings.
  2. A lack of high-quality holdings or good stocks.
    • With about twice as many funds as stocks in the market, there simply are not enough good stocks to fill all the funds.

These shortcomings are related. If investors had more insight into the quality of funds’ holdings, I think they would allocate a lot less money to funds with poor quality holdings. Many funds would cease to exist.

Investors deserve research on the quality of stocks held by ETFs and mutual funds.

Quality of holdings is the single most important factor in determining an ETF or mutual fund’s future performance. No matter how low the costs, if the ETF or mutual fund holds bad stocks, performance will be poor. Costs are easier to find but research on the quality of holdings is almost non-existent.

Figure 2 shows investors are not putting enough money into ETFs and mutual funds with high-quality holdings. Only 94 out of 6706 (1% of assets) ETFs and mutual funds allocate a significant amount of value to quality holdings. 99% of assets are in funds that do not justify their costs and over charge investors for poor portfolio management.

Figure 2: Distribution of ETFs & Mutual Funds (Count & Assets) By Portfolio Management Rating

NewConstructs_FundDistributionPortfolioMgmtRating_4Q15

Source: New Constructs, LLC and company filings

Figure 3 shows that investors successfully find low-cost funds. 69% of assets are held in ETFs and mutual funds that have Attractive-or-better rated total annual costs, our apples-to-apples measure of the all-in cost of investing in any given fund.

Out of the 6706 ETFs and mutual funds we cover, 1524 (69% of assets) earn an Attractive-or-better Total Annual Costs rating.

Clearly, ETF and mutual fund investors are smart shoppers when it comes to finding cheap investments. But cheap is not necessarily good.

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