Friday, 1 October 2010

Cap-Weight vs Fundamental Portfolios: Q3 Update, Guess Who Leads

Regular readers may recall that a few months ago I started a contest to see whether a portfolio based on Fundamentally-weighted ETFs would do better than the traditional standard Cap-weighted index ETFs. This contest is meant to be as realistic as possible using actual funds, including trading commissions, currency effects, distributions, DRIPs etc.

The quarterly distributions have all been announced, though not all received as BMO only pays out on October 7th and Claymore on the 6th (so their DRIP calculation will have to wait till then).

However, the quarter end was yesterday so it's opportune to take a snapshot look at how the contest is going (in order to do the comparison I've assumed a bit precociously that the dividends owing by BMO and Claymore are in the cash account now until the DRIP happens, which skews the numbers by $111 in favour of the Fundamental portfolio). With or without that cash, the two portfolios are neck and neck - with the cash, the Fundamental leads and without it, Cap-weight would be ahead. It is less than $100 difference in total either way, or less than 0.1% of the $100,000+ portfolios.

Other observations:
  • Strong portfolio gains: both portfolios up almost 10% since June!
  • Correlated asset classes can be good: every single ETF / asset class in both portfolios has gone up since June. That's highly unusual and sure not to continue for very long. The value of having a diversified portfolio is still evident in the large disparity between the gains amongst the ETFs. If one had only been invested in Canadian large cap equity with a 4% gain and bonds with a 2% gain, the overall portfolio gain would have been somewhere in that low range. Emerging markets, Developed markets ex-US, international real estate, commodities and Canadian small cap and REITs all contributed percentage advances of triple or more Canadian large cap's. Another way to look at it is that not having a diversified portfolio means having to pick which asset class will go on a tear next in order to get good gains. Diversification = not as good as the best but better than the worst.
  • Fundamental winning in most asset classes vs Cap-weight - leading by 5 to 2. It is still early days in our contest but this is going in the direction I would expect. ... However, where Cap-weight is winning (Canada large equity and Emerging markets equity), it is by enough to more or less balance things at the portfolio total. As I wrote about here, in the Canada equity case, I believe the difference is due to the ongoing Potash Corp takeover bid.
  • No re-balancing required: in neither portfolio is the actual value of any asset class anywhere near to going beyond the 1/4 away from target that we said would be our rule for re-balancing; the Cap-weight percentages are slightly more out of whack compared to target, which is what we would expect from indices that rely on market prices - fundamental accounting weights should evolve more slowly. That will be interesting to watch as we go along. (in the updated spreadsheet that appears live at the bottom of this blog, I've inserted a new column in the individual portfolio spreadsheets that shows the ratio of each asset class' actual to target)
  • Currency has reduced returns: the Canadian dollar has risen about 1.4% vs the USD since our launch, reducing our net returns on US denominated holdings and that is the same for both portfolios.

The contest continues ...

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