Indexing Fundamentalists: Another Casualty?

May 27, 2009

Claymore files request to change ETF from U.S. large-cap-focused to foreign small-caps.


In another reduction of alternative indexes that use different valuations and business fundamentals to weight companies, Claymore Advisors is seeking to switch an existing exchange-traded fund to a more traditional market-cap size weighted benchmark.

But that isn't all.

In a filing dated May 21, the trust for the Claymore/Great Companies Large-Cap Growth ETF (NYSE: XGC) is asking the Securities & Exchange Commission to let it invest in much smaller companies. And while listed largely on U.S. exchanges, they'd be foreign-based businesses.

The new fund would be called the Claymore/BNY Mellon International Small Cap ETF.

The document notes that the new ETF's "investment objective is not fundamental" in nature. It clearly states the change will revert to a strictly passive indexing approach. (See filing here.)

The request to regulators by Claymore comes on the heels of PowerShares' decision to close 19 of its ETFs, a dozen of which were based on fundamental indexes created by Rob Arnott's Research Affiliates. (See related story here.)

While the existing XGC also follows an index, it's based on an investment approach by Great Companies Inc., a Tampa Bay, Fla.-based money management firm. Its managers rank companies by such factors as price-earnings growth rates, or PEG ratios, and various debt measures for assessing profitability.

Great Companies uses computers to crunch fundamental data to compare value characteristics against growth metrics for domestic large-cap names. Stocks are ranked and added to the ETF's underlying index according to the adviser's composite scoring system.

When it was launched in April 2007, XGC came with an expense ratio of 0.60%. It hasn't changed since then and it had slightly more than $3.7 million in assets through Tuesday.

Higher Price Tag 

When it was first coming to market, a Great Companies' portfolio manager acknowledged that XGC's price tag was higher than rival large-cap funds such as Vanguard and iShares. "But we're providing more of a managed-account product than a classic index-fund product," he said in a story at the time. (You can read the story here).

The new small-cap international ETF would face stiff competition as several newcomers have jumped into the asset class in the past few years. But one bone of contention for U.S.-based investors in often illiquid foreign waters is that it can be difficult to follow small-cap names held by their funds.

The new Claymore offering would address that concern by predominately investing in overseas firms with listings on major U.S. exchanges. The fund would hold mainly companies with American depositary receipts or global depositary receipts and market caps of $250 million to $2 billion.

At the end of March, such a makeup gave the underlying index a definite slant to emerging markets. The BNY/Mellon benchmark consisted of 92 stocks. The weightings by country then were: Brazil 21.37%; China 19.20%; India 7.28%; United Kingdom 6.88%; Chile 5.59%; Mexico 4.19%; Russia 3.64%; Japan 3.40%; Israel 3.10%; Netherlands 2.78%; Greece 2.64%; South Africa 2.57%; Italy 2.14%; Argentina 1.98%; Switzerland 1.96%; France 1.89%; Korea 1.79%; Australia 1.68%; Ireland 1.61%; Colombia 1.51%; Hungary 1.00%; U.S. 0.82%; Indonesia 0.50%; Hong Kong 0.46%; Denmark 0.45% and Germany 0.41%.

No expense ratio is listed in the filing. But if the new fund were in the same neighborhood as XGC's, it would seem to have a better fighting chance when competing in the small-cap international arena.

Prices for rival ETFs range from around 0.40% and up. For example, the group's granddaddy is the WisdomTree International SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSE: DLS). Meanwhile, Vanguard entered the field in March with an ETF charging 0.38%. (For a more complete breakdown on competing international small-cap ETFs, see stories here and here.)

-- This report was submitted by's Murray Coleman. 




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