Index Funds

Sector Breakdown of Diversified Portfolios

May 15, 2012


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

TD e-Series Accounts Not Very Hard to Set Up

May 10, 2011


As someone who has invested in TD e-Series Mutual Funds both through a brokerage account at TD Waterhouse and my kids’ mutual fund RESP accounts, I’m somewhat mystified by the flak these funds sometimes receive. In a recent column, Globe & Mail columnist Rob Carrick called TD e-Series Mutual Funds “well-loved but frustratingly elusive”. Investors are apparently frustrated because they can’t simply walk into a branch and plonk some cash into an e-series Mutual Fund.

While I admit that setting up a TD e-Series account is not the simplest process in the world, my experience with establishing these accounts was very smooth. All I had to do was follow the steps outlined in the TD e-Series Mutual Funds webpage. It was no more difficult than, say, opening new brokerage accounts. The process involved a visit to a local TD Canada Trust branch to open a RESP account and one mailed-in application to have the account converted into a TD e-Series account. Hardly onerous or complicated, if you ask me. Once the initial setup is done, it is smooth sailing thereafter: it takes only a few clicks of the mouse to contribute cash or rebalance the portfolio.

I did find that fund salespeople at the local TD Canada Trust branch are not well informed about the e-Series funds. If a client walks into a branch and asks to open an e-Series account, they are likely to be met with blank stares or attempts to place them in one of the more expensive funds in the TD Mutual Fund line-up. TD Canada Trust is positioning e-Series funds as a direct-to-investor, online-only mutual fund. DIY Investors can’t complain too much if a local branch knows how to sell a 2.13% MER fund but is unaware of the existence of a 0.32% MER index fund.

Tracking error in TD e-Series Funds, Part 2

March 16, 2010


In Part 1 of this series, we examined the tracking error exhibited by the TD e-Series Canadian Bond Index Fund and the Canadian Index Fund and found that both funds track their respective benchmarks fairly well. In today’s post, we’ll look at the tracking error in the TD e-Series US Index fund and the International Index Fund.

TD e-Series US Index (TDB902)

The TD e-Series US Index Fund tracks the S&P 500 in Canadian dollars and has a MER of 0.33%. Assuming the dividend yield of S&P 500 is 2%, the withholding tax can be expected to result in a further hit of 0.3% (15% withholding tax on a 2% dividend yield). The actual tracking error of TDB902 averages 0.57% over the 2004-09 period, which is fairly close to the expected tracking error of 0.63%. However, note that the tracking error fluctuates quite a bit around the average and in some years, the fund’s returns are higher than the index.

 Year   S&P 500 (in CAD)   TDB902   Difference 
2004 2.8% 2.2% 0.6%
2005 1.5% 1.7% -0.2%
2006 16.0% 14.7% 1.1%
2007 -10.3% -11.1% 0.9%
2008 -22.6% -21.7% -1.1%
2009 9.1% 6.7% 2.2%


TD e-Series International Index (TDB911)

TD e-Series International Index Fund tracks the MSCI EAFE Index in Canadian Dollars. It has a MER of 0.48% but its tracking error can be expected to be higher due to the drag from withholding taxes on dividends. In 2009, TDB911 trailed the index by 4.2% but in the previous year, it returned 3.1% more than the index. On average, TDB911 has trailed the index by 0.74% over the past five years.

 Year   MSCI EAFE (in CAD)   TDB911   Difference 
2004 11.9% 10.9% 0.89%
2005 10.3% 10.2% 0.09%
2006 27.1% 25.5% 1.26%
2007 -5.0% -6.0% 1.05%
2008 -30.0% -27.9% -3.05%
2009 14.3% 9.5% 4.20%


Both the US Index Fund and the International Index Fund track the benchmarks fairly well over the five year period ending in 2009 but the annual returns can deviate quite a bit from the index. This is especially so for the international fund because TD Mutual Funds does not fully replicate the MSCI EAFE Index but instead uses a sampling technique to select a representative subset of stocks. ETFs such as the Vanguard Europe Pacific ETF (VEA) also employ statistical methods to sample the index. Sampling can sometimes result in quite large tracking errors in annual returns, especially in volatile markets like the ones we experienced in 2008 and 2009.

Bottom line

The tracking errors in TD e-Series Funds are not way out of line of what you’d expect when you take into account costs like MERs, withholding taxes, foreign exchange fluctuations and sampling errors. TD e-Series Funds remain a great choice for low-cost, diversified portfolios, especially when modest amounts are invested on a regular basis but the funds that track foreign stock markets can have large annual tracking errors (both positive and negative).