Using open-end mutual funds or exchange traded funds to emulate a hedge fund manager isn't without cost -- even when your hedges are successful.
For do-it-yourself hedgers, a number of "inverse" mutual funds and ETFs are available. They gain in value when most other investments in their respective categories drop in price. Many are leveraged and will advance in price at double the rate of the declines in their corresponding "long" investments.
But they are far from free.
The accompanying table lists 10 mutual funds from TheStreet.com Ratings database with lower annualized expense ratios than most other inverse open-end fund offerings. Still, only six from that grouping have lower expenses than the median open-end fund.
Since these funds primarily achieve their inverted performances by frequently turning over holdings of derivative investments, their transaction costs and administrative expenses would be expected to be higher than traditional mutual funds.
Moreover, three of the open-end funds come with front-end sales charges. Although such funds usually offer additional classes of the funds with different fee structures -- often without front-end sales charges -- retail classes other than the "A" shares usually involve higher expense ratios.
Four of the open-end funds on the list are leveraged in addition to being inverse performers. The leveraged funds in the open-end list at the top of the table and the ETFs in the lower table are identified by the word "Ultra" in their names. These are normally designed to move in the opposite direction of their respective market segments, but at double the amplitude.
For example, the
ProFunds-Ultra-Short OTC Fund Inv
has returned 39.96% in the three months ended Feb. 29, virtually double the 19.62% return of the unleveraged
ProFunds-Short OTC Inv
for the same period.
The bottom list of 23 inverse ETFs couldn't be limited to 10 because all are tied with expense ratios of 0.95%. Although that is lower than any of the open-end funds, it is important to keep in mind that ETFs have acquisition and ownership costs in addition to their expense ratios.
Brokerage commissions must be paid at both ends of round-trip ownership periods. In addition, hidden costs, such as bid/asked spreads and premiums and discounts of market price from net asset value per share, can also elevate the effective costs of ETFs.
Richard Widows is a senior financial analyst for TheStreet.com Ratings. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, Widows was senior product manager for quantitative analytics at Thomson Financial. After receiving an M.B.A. from Santa Clara University in California, his career included development of investment information systems at data firms, including the Lipper division of Reuters. His international experience includes assignments in the U.K. and East Asia.