Data compiled by Index Universe shows that this year we have seen over 140 new ETFs introduced to the U.S. market. The top 10 new ETFs that have gathered the most assets include a wide array of domestic and international strategies. However, two funds that caught my eye are focused on stock selection using fundamental and momentum scores that may enhance your returns over time. Both ETFs offer attractive qualities as diversified core positions, but selecting the right one will likely depend on your unique investing style.
The iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF (QUAL) is designed to select large- and mid-cap stocks that are focused on the following three categories: high return on equity, stable year-over-year earnings growth and low financial leverage. The end result is a portfolio of approximately 124 holdings that have the highest scores in these fundamental categories. Each stock within the index is weighted according to a multiple of its quality score and market cap which lends itself to the largest stocks getting the largest allocations.
One of the biggest advantages of this strategy is the inclusion of a subset of companies with strong balance sheet characteristics. Right now this ETF has overweight exposure to technology, consumer discretionary, and healthcare sectors which make up over 70% of the underlying holdings. Each quarter the index is rebalanced and adjusted to include the stocks with the highest scores. In addition, QUAL has a very reasonable expense ratio of just 0.15% which is one of the lowest internal fees I have seen for a fundamental index.
When compared with a passive index such as the iShares Dow Jones U.S. ETF (IYY) over the last five months, you can see a clear advantage in performance from QUAL.
Admittedly, this is a short time frame to judge performance and we will need to monitor additional data points in the future to determine if this alpha strategy continues to add value. However, I think that the initial asset flows of over $180 million in less than six months show that there is a great deal of demand for this fundamental style of investing.
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