Low Fees Help Passive, Index-Based ETFs Shine

The underperformance of many high-cost open-end mutual funds has pushed many investors toward cheap, index-based exchange traded funds.

Year-to-date through December 8, the average large-cap core mutual fund rose 10.5%, compared to the S&P 500’s 12.2% gain, Todd Rosenbluth, Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research at S&P Capital IQ, said in a note.

“As the passive bond lineup expands, we think investors will increasingly seek out cheaper and often better performing products,” Rosenbluth said.

The underperformance in mutual funds has been an ongoing concern. According to the SPIVA scorecard, the average large-cap core fund has underperformed the S&P 500 benchmark for the past nine years, with the average fund lagging 2.12% in 2015.

Rosenbluth argued that the ongoing underperformance in the large-cap core mutual fund space may be attributed to the average 1.1% net expense ratio of the funds.

“In our proprietary mutual fund and ETF ranking systems, cost is one of three primary inputs (performance and risk are the others), separating the wheat from the chaff,” Rosenbluth said.