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How Much Are You Paying for Your Size and Value Tilt?
It’s becoming clear that the price for overall U.S. equity market exposure is close to zero. Many market-cap weighted index funds and exchange-traded funds from Vanguard and others are charging expense ratios of five basis points (bps) or less. An interesting, and more difficult, question to answer: How much are you paying to gain exposure to small-cap and value stocks across the funds in the marketplace? This is more difficult to answer because a fund that calls itself “small cap” may own stocks that are materially ....
Comparing DFA Small Value to Vanguard Small Value

Over the past few months, the difference in historical performance between DFA Small Value (ticker: DFSVX) and Vanguard Small Value (VISVX) has narrowed. For example, for the 10-year period ending December 2014, the compound annual return of DFSVX was 7.9 percent while VISVX earned 8.3 percent. Comparatively, for the 10-year period ending December 2012, compound annual returns were 11.3 percent for DFSVX and 9.6 percent for VISVX. What explains this reversal?

Examining the Early Peri....

Deflation and Stock and Bond Returns

Overview: With expected inflation rates very low, there will be significant attention on the possibility of deflation causing the stock market to fall. This blog examines the relationship between the rate of inflation and stock and bond returns. Generally, the research shows that stock returns are no lower in deflationary environments than in normal inflationary ones. The research does find, though, that both stocks and bonds have done poorly in high-inflation environments.


An Analytical Evaluation of Rising Glidepath Claims

Last year, a piece by Michael Kitces and Wade Pfau made the claim that mechanically increasing the equity allocation during retirement — which they term a “rising glidepath” — could reduce the likelihood that a retiree outlives his or her assets and could decrease the magnitude of shortfall when capital market returns disappoint. Specifically, the paper stated:

Resurrecting the Size Premium

There have been a number of articles over the past few years claiming to refute the existence of a small-cap (or size) premium, which is the historical difference in returns between small-cap stocks and large-cap stocks. While the critiques have been somewhat varied, two common claims are that the risk-adjusted returns of small-cap stocks have been similar to large-cap stocks and that the performance of small-cap stocks has been weak in international stock markets.

The Size Premium i....

Are Some Bond Fund Prices Stale?

I have long been skeptical of how fair bond fund prices are — or more accurately said, the potential ability for knowledgeable investors to “game” bond fund prices — in fixed income asset classes where liquidity isn’t great. Two asset classes that immediately come to mind are municipal bonds and high-yield corporate bonds. I finally got around to testing this proposition using daily returns data for a handful of different bond funds in these two asset classes. The findings confirm my suspicion.

Protecting Against Inflation: Evaluating Inflation Hedge Misconceptions and Strategies

The financial media are full of conjecture about which strategies might effectively hedge inflation risk or not. Here we explore which asset classes, if any, have been effective at protecting against inflation risk. First, it is helpful to address some common logical and analytical misconceptions about hedging inflation risk.

Focus on Correlation, Not Volatility

When evaluating whether an asset class effectively protects against inflation, the focus....

Perspective on High-Frequency Trading

I have received a number of questions since “60 Minutes” ran a piece on high-frequency trading (HFT) on March 30 (lest we forget, this is the same “60 Minutes” that ran a piece in 2010 that predicted the municipal market would implode in 2011, and we all know how that turned out). I’ll summarize what I think we know about HFT at this point, a viewpoint that runs counter to the perspective offered on “60 Minutes.”....

Smart Beta Can Be Smart But Is Not New

I held off writing about smart beta strategies as long as I could. The world, after all, is awash in such pieces. I couldn’t ignore it any longer, though, because virtually every piece I’ve read that’s critical of smart beta misses one fundamental point: The term “smart beta” may be new (and has certainly been effective from a marketing perspective) but the underlying strategies themselves are not.

Most of the debate has centered on the non-market-capitalization weighting schemes of smart be....

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