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Can a Single ETF Make an Entire Portfolio?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Wall Street Journal recently published an article that explored the possibility of constructing an investment portfolio using only three funds: one broad-based domestic equity fund; one broad-based foreign-equity fund; and one broad-based domestic fixed-income fund. Once the funds have been purchased, the only work to do is to rebalance as needed.

A portfolio of just three funds sounds very easy to manage but not as easy as a portfolio of just one fund, and there are ETFs that own all the asset classes.

These can be a solution for investors who no longer want to make decisions about asset allocation but realize they need a positive return on their assets to keep up with or be slightly ahead of inflation.

This is where so-called asset allocation funds can play a role. These funds own both equities and fixed income. There are several of them in the market, including the SPDR SSgA Global Allocation Fund (GAL).
[Read: <a target="blank" data-add-tracking="true" href="http://www.thestreet.com/story/11979475/1/think-tech-one-way-to-invest-in-the-china-miracle.html"><em>Think Tech: One Way to Invest in the 'China Miracle'</em></a>]

GAL is a fund of 25 other SPDR funds. On the equity side, it allocates 34% to foreign equity, including emerging markets; 27% to domestic equity; and 4% to REITs. On the fixed-income side, GAL allocates 15% to domestic investment-grade debt, 7% to domestic high-yield, 5% to foreign and domestic TIPS and 3% to foreign fixed-income.

Since its debut in April, 2012 GAL has experienced relatively little volatility on its way to a 7% gain. Not surprisingly, that return falls right in between the 20% gain for the S&P 500 and the almost 3% decline for the iShares Core Total US Bond Market ETF (AGG). It is worth noting that during last month's Bernanke induced panic, GAL fell 7% -- more than the declines for the S&P 500 and AGG. This was because of GAL's foreign exposure.
[Read: <a target="blank" data-add-tracking="true" href="http://www.thestreet.com/story/11978075/1/new-etfs-look-to-protect-against-market-declines.html"><em>New ETFs Look to Protect Against Market Declines</em></a>]

The SPDR S&P Word ex-US ETF (GWL), which makes up 19% of GAL, fell more than 10% last month but has since recovered more than half of that drop.

One potential source of ongoing performance drag could be the roughly 9% allocation to Japanese equities via the 21% weighting to Japan in GWL, and GAL's 5% weighting in the SPDR Russell Nomura Prime Japan Fund (JPP). Japan obviously has many problems including a debt to GDP load greater than 200% and a relatively old population averaging 44 years not mention a stock market that is still down more than 60% from the all-time high set in 1989.
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SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
AGG $109.00 0.00%
GWL $26.60 0.00%
GAL $33.61 0.00%
AAPL $113.29 0.00%
FB $91.01 0.00%

Markets

Chart of I:DJI
DOW 16,643.01 -11.76 -0.07%
S&P 500 1,988.87 +1.21 0.06%
NASDAQ 4,828.3250 +15.6170 0.32%

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