ETFs

Sector Breakdown of Diversified Portfolios

May 15, 2012

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In a recent column, The Globe & Mail’s Rob Carrick (see Beware the limitations of buying the index, May 11, 2012) pointed out that investing in just the TSX Composite index might leave an investor with an unbalanced portfolio because of the index’s concentration in just three sectors: financials, energy and materials. The criticism is a valid one because, as you can see from the chart below, resource companies make up more than half the index and financials make up another one-third of the index. (As an aside, the sector breakdown of the S&P/TSX 60 index, which is tracked by the iShares S&P/TSX 60 ETF – TSX: XIU is pretty much the same as the broader Composite index).

Sector Breakdown of the S&P/TSX Composite Index

This limitation of the TSX Composite Index is one reason why passive investors diversify their portfolios globally. The US Total Stock Market, for instance, offers much better diversification. The three dominant sectors in the Canadian market make up less than a third of the US stock market. The US stock market also offers exposure to sectors such as Information Technology, Healthcare and Consumer goods that have a much smaller representation in the Canadian index.

Sector Breakdown of US Total Stock Market

The MSCI EAFE Index which provides exposure to developed stock markets in Europe and the Pacific region is also well diversified across sectors. Financials and resources make up just 40 percent and the index has significant allocation to stocks representing Consumer goods, Utilities and Telecommunication services.

Sector Breakdown of MSCI EAFE Index

A globally diversified index portfolio such as the Sleepy Portfolio, which is split between Canadian, US, EAFE and Emerging Markets has a much better balance between sectors when compared to the Canadian stock market. The allocation to financials and resources drops to less than half the portfolio compared to three-quarters for the Canadian-market only index investor. And the allocation to sectors such as Consumer goods, Information Technology and Healthcare is also boosted substantially.

Sector Breakdown of the Sleepy Portfolio

What is iShares Planning After Acquiring Claymore

May 2, 2012

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Recently, I had a chance to chat with Mary Anne Wiley, head of BlackRock Canada on what the 800 pound Gorilla in the ETF marketplace plans to do after the blockbuster acquisition of the #2 player Claymore Investments was recently finalized. After the acquisition closed, iShares rebranded all Claymore products (ticker symbols remained the same) but apart from that the only changes have been some minor adjustments. Here’s what I learnt:

  • I started off by asking why the Claymore Inverse 10 Year Government Bond ETF (CIB) was terminated and whether it presages any more fund closures. Ms. Wiley said that the decision was made because CIB was not consistent with the iShares brand since it was most effective for short-term holding periods and also had no strong market appeal.
  • iShares plans on maintaining the lineup of Research Affiliates Fundamental Index (RAFI) ETFs and laddered fixed-income ETFs both of which are very popular among individual investors. It appears that laddered ETFs make it easier to introduce the concept of low-cost fixed-income investing to retail investors compared to capitalization-weighted products, which are more popular among institutional investors.
  • Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs), Share Purchase Plans (SPPs) and Pre-Authorized Contribution Plans (PACCs) will be maintained for the Claymore ETFs.
  • DRIPs will be rolled out to all iShares products later this year. Since, many discount brokers already offer synthetic DRIPs on most ETFs, many investors already have the ability to reinvest dividends.
  • The advisor class ETFs which are sold through advisors and have an extra fee tacked on top to compensate for financial advice will be maintained for existing products.
  • iShares plans to roll out advisor class ETFs to the other products in its lineup.

Performance of the Horizons Enhanced Income Equity ETF (HEX)

April 9, 2012

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Horizons launched a whole slew of covered call ETFs last year of which the Horizons Enhanced Income Equity ETF (HEX) turned out to be the most popular. Enticed by the initial yield of about 20%, investors purchased as much as $247 million worth of HEX last year. The ETF invests in an equally-weighted portfolio of the largest 30 Canadian stocks and aims to generate monthly income by writing out-of-the-money covered calls on its stock holdings.

It appears that many investors had (just like they did with the BMO Covered Call Canadian Banks ETF) hoped that the juicy distributions will translate into higher total returns compared to a plain vanilla product like the iShares S&P/TSX 60 Index ETF (XIU). Now that HEX has a 1 year track record, let’s compare its performance with that of XIU:

Total Returns for the 1-year period ending March 31, 2012
Horizons Enhanced Income Equity ETF (HEX): -11.50%
iShares S&P/TSX 60 Index ETF (XIU): -10.32%

Now, let’s compare the income generated by the two ETFs as a percentage of starting NAV:

Income generated for the 1-year period ending March 31, 2012
Horizons Enhanced Income Equity ETF (HEX): 13.34%
iShares S&P/TSX 60 Index ETF (XIU): 2.25%

and the change in price level (assuming distributions are not reinvested):

Horizons Enhanced Income Equity ETF (HEX): -24.55%
iShares S&P/TSX 60 Index ETF (XIU): -12.62%

It is too early to draw definitive conclusions but it is interesting to note that HEX has slightly underperformed XIU on a pre-tax basis over the past year. However we can draw one conclusion: it is important to look beyond just the current distributions in evaluating an investment. A product with higher current income may not necessarily be the one that turns out to have higher total returns.