Investment Research

Investing in ETFs over Reporting Season

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Aug 13, 2019

Published: 13th August 2019 Product in Focus: ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF Key Points August reporting season is in full-swing, presenting investors with both opportunities and risks. ETFs offer a simple and cost-effective way to diversify away from single name risks. ZYAU, which holds companies based on quality and yield factors, could be an attractive solution over this period. Reporting season is upon us as most Australian companies prepare to present their financial results for the period ended 30 June 2019. This article looks at the risks and opportunities that may present themselves during the up-coming weeks and demonstrates how ETFs can be used to avoid some of the pitfalls that can arise. Reporting Season highlights Of the S&P/ASX 200 constituents, 152 will report by the end of this month, with activity peaking in the middle two-weeks of August. Highlights include Rio Tinto on 1st of August, Commonwealth Bank on the 7th, CSL Limited on 14th, Telstra Corp on the 15th and BHP Group on 20th. Wesfarmers and Woolworths report on 27th and 29th, respectively. Figure 1 provides a visual guide to the season ahead. Opportunity or Risk? Over the coming weeks market professionals will be positioning their portfolios and adjusting their ratings and targets in anticipation of earnings reports. Not only are they forecasting company results, following each announcement comes the task of digesting the details and evaluating how the market will react. With China’s slowing economy, global trade concerns, Brexit, Hong Kong and rate cuts on the cards both locally and abroad, there are also a lot of external factors to consider. For professional investors, reporting season represents an opportunity. Those with better insight into the workings of each company and a better ability to read how the market will interpret earnings reports and changes in external variables have a better chance of beating the market. For average investors, however, the risks of making a bad call on a single company can often outweigh the potential rewards. Stock Picking Is a Zero-Sum Game It is often not appreciated that stock picking and active management is a zero-sum game. For every investor who outperforms the market, another investor must underperform. The average return earned by all investors is, by definition, the return of the market. To demonstrate this, we introduce the concept of dispersion. Dispersion is a measure of how spread out stock returns are over a period of time. Figure 2 shows two simple examples. In Panel A, where dispersion is low, the opposite is true. To use an extreme example, in the case where all stocks have the same return, which is the market return, dispersion is zero and there is no ability for anyone to outperform the market. In Panel B, where stock returns are very spread out or dispersed, there are high rewards available for correctly picking the winners, but there are also high risks for backing the losers. How Risky Is Reporting Season? We now turn our attention to the Australian reporting season and investigate the dispersion of stocks over the two key reporting months; February and August. To do so we calculated the dispersion of S&P/ASX 200 stocks on a monthly basis over ten years, where dispersion is measured as the standard deviation of returns between stocks. Monthly dispersion numbers are then averaged across each calendar month over the sample period. Results are shown in Figure 3. As anticipated, the two highest dispersion months are February and August. On average the dispersion across these two months is over 2% higher than over other months. The conclusion that we draw from this is that reporting periods present both the biggest opportunity to beat the market, but also the biggest risk of lagging the market. For investors who do not have an edge, the risks of attempting to beat the market can be high. So, what can the average investor do to avoid such risks? Diversification using ETFs Exchange traded funds offer a simple and easy solution. They allow investors to purchase an entire portfolio of ASX-listed stocks in a single trade. Low-cost diversification is a key feature of ETFs and this is exactly what investors need over periods where single-name risk and market dispersion is anticipated to be high. Broad-based ETFs, which closely tracks the market, can be useful for riding-out risker periods, but investing in ETFs does not necessarily mean simply investing with the market. It is still possible to take an active position, while diversifying-away single stock risk. ETFs offer a wide range of different exposures, most of which provide significant diversification benefits. One strategy for reducing earnings-related volatility is to invest in high quality firms with stable income. ETF Securities offers a unique fund in this regard, which filters ASX-listed companies for both yield and quality. ZYAU provides exposure to a selection of 40 Australian companies that have high dividend yields and/or share buy-back rates. To be eligible for inclusion the companies must have stable or increasing dividends and must generate Free Cash Flow to Equity above the amount of their distributions. This avoids companies who are using debt to finance unsustainably high yields and helps to identify high quality companies. Companies with stable yields and strong cash flow generation tend to be well-established, stable businesses with strong balance sheets and may be less prone to negative earnings surprises. Fund Name ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF (ASX Code: ZYAU) Management Fee 0.35% per annum Benchmark S&P/ASX 300 Shareholder Yield Index Inception Date 9 June 2015 Distribution Frequency Quarterly 12 Month Yield 5.09% plus franking credits Holdings A full list of current holdings is available through the product PCF located here. In Summary ZYAU offers investors a portfolio of high quality, yield-paying stocks on the ASX that can help achieve diversification in a single trade at a relatively low cost. This can be particularly powerful over reporting season, where returns in individual stocks tend to be more spread out and the risks from choosing the wrong stocks is higher. ZYAU is currently yielding 5.09% p.a. plus franking credits and has consistently been one of the best performing Australian equity-income ETFs since coming to market in 2015.

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Putting the Spotlight on Defenders

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Nov 11, 2018

Key Takeaways Recent market volatility has encouraged investors to position portfolios more defensively ETF Securities has a selection of products more suited to a defensive strategy ZYUS gives a low volatility approach to the US market CORE gives exposure to the historically more stable infrastructure sector GOLD provides the best-known hedge against equity market downturn and political instability Introduction Investors have battened down the hatches over the past weeks as waves of volatility have dominated the market. Maybe the market calms down and equities resurge, but now, is clear, that late cycle volatility is here and will probably become more violent at each episode. The recent equity sell-off has heightened uncertainty, with consumer sentiment nicely described by the CNN ‘Fear and Greed Index’ that looks to characterise the primary emotion driving the market (see below). Right now, this index sits at 11, or ‘extreme fear’. Why? The consensus among investors appears to be that we’re in the ‘late stage’ of the investment cycle. Wall St’s thundering run has lasted a decade – the longest ever. And the market has become increasingly wary because of that. We have seen a very large sell-off in technology sector stocks with the Nasdaq, which is often taken as a proxy for US tech, recording its worst month since 2012. This suggests that some are losing faith in the continued performance of our recent equity stars (otherwise known as team FAANG). Adding fuel to the fire, the world has been curiously watching on as China and the US continue their game of trade policy tag. As the reverberations of any decisions by these heavyweights are felt by all, this tension is creating a difficult environment for investors. Playing Defence Though we are all familiar with the old adage ‘past performance is not an indicator of future performance’, it is sometimes helpful to look back at how previous storms have been weathered. The traditional market response to a late cycle downturn can generally be characterised by a move away from higher risk equities such as technology or emerging markets, greater focus on essential sectors such as healthcare, utilities and energy, and a general movement away from equities and into cash, short-term fixed income and commodities. As the bull market nears the close of its tenth year many are considering if now is the time to reposition portfolios towards ‘defensive’ assets. So, what are the options for investors looking to rearrange their holdings into a more defensive position? ** Gold is not considered in the risk illustration for two reasons. First, there is no counterparty risk with gold whatsoever (with cash there is still sovereign risk). Second, gold has historically had low correlations with equities, so its risk characteristics work differently. Defensive Equity Solutions America If you take a glance at global headlines, the US right now may seem a difficult market to play, with high levels of uncertainty around international policy and tariffs. However, as the world’s dominant economy, many would wish to maintain some sort of equity exposure but with a defensive tilt and an eye on capital preservation as much as growth. The ETFS S&P 500 High Yield Low Volatility ETF (ZYUS) is one option that is designed to achieve this. As suggested by the name, this ETF has a low volatility filter built into its index construction. The underlying assumption is that companies that don’t exhibit aggressive price movements are less likely to be sold down heavily in a general market sell off. Specifically, the index universe (the S&P 500) is ordered to select the 75 highest yielding stocks and then the 50 least volatile of those 75 are selected creating a high dividend paying, relatively low risk portfolio based on the trailing twelve months of price data. With reference to the chart above it is clear to see that, since the VIX jumped in October, IVV has lost approximately 10% whereas ZYUS has only lost 4%. Part of the reason for this is because ZYUS has a 16% greater exposure to utilities (historically low in volatility) whilst a 17% less to information technology (historically high in volatility) (as at 30th August 2018, source: S&P). Infrastructure Another strategy investors may consider in times of heightened volatility is increasing the allocation to sectors that have historically had greater stability. One such area known for this is infrastructure. The source of this stability can be explained by looking at the industries that fall into this sector: utilities, telecoms, industrials and transport. These industries typically have high capital costs, low elasticity of demand, long business timelines and often exist as regulated oligopolies or monopolies. Their capital-intensive nature means that they are very difficult and, in some cases, like energy distribution networks, nigh impossible to disrupt. This can mean that these sectors have lower risk (as measured by standard deviation of returns) than other sectors, such as technology or real estate. The table below illustrates the substantially lower volatility of infrastructure against these sectors.

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The Aussie yield ETF that challenges active managers

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Apr 09, 2018

ETFS Trade idea – The Aussie yield ETF that challenges active managers ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF (ZYAU) In the wake of S&P Dow Jones Indices recently published SPIVA® report, this week we have taken a look at how our ETFs have fared against active managers over time. This note highlights ZYAU, which has produced strong excess returns since inception and outperformed many well-known active managers. Investors looking for cost-effective excess returns from domestic equities should consider evaluating ZYAU. In this week’s ETFS Trade idea, we look at the results of the SPIVA® Australia Scorecard released by S&P Dow Jones Indices last month and compare the performance of ZYAU to a collection of well-known active funds focused on Australian equity-income. SPVIA® Australia Scorecard 2017 S&P Dow Jones Indices have been publishing SPIVA® Scorecards for major markets since 2002 and have become leading contributors to the active versus passive debate worldwide. The SPIVA® Scorecards track the performance of active fund managers in each market against benchmark indices across a variety of categories and across multiple time horizons. Looking specifically at Australian large-cap equity funds, as at the end of 2017 59% of funds underperformed the S&P/ASX 200 Index. Over 3, 5 and 15 year periods, respectively, 67%, 63% and 77% of funds underperformed the national benchmark. An equally-weighted portfolio of active funds would have underperformed the benchmark over 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15 years. Similarly, in the mid and small-cap categories, 74% and 75% of funds underperformed the S&P/ASX Mid-Small Index over 1 and 3 years. How does ZYAU compare to active funds? ZYAU sits in-between a traditional active fund and a purely passive index tracker in the area commonly termed ‘smart-beta’ or ‘enhanced-alpha’. Smart-beta funds passively track an index, but the index they track has features that differentiate it from a standard market capitalisation-weighted index and aim to outperform a standard index in much the same way that active funds do. In the case of ZYAU, it tracks the S&P/ASX 300 Shareholder Yield Index, which aims to outperform the S&P/ASX 300 benchmark by selecting a sub-set of constituents based on ‘shareholder yield’ – a combined measure of dividend yield and buy-back yield. Because ZYAU’s investment strategy is pre-defined it has several potential advantages over active funds: its strategy is consistent, published and available for investors to evaluate and scrutinise its holdings are published in the public domain on a daily basis because it trades on exchange, investors can trade intra-day, unlike with many active funds because the fund does not require a team of fund managers to continually evaluate its holdings, it can charge management fees more in-line with passive index trackers. ZYAU’s stocks selections tend to be more “active” than many active funds, with its Active Share, or non-overlapping weight, versus the S&P/ASX 200 currently at 80.5%. This means that ZYAU can better compliment a core index holding in a portfolio. Table 2, below, shows comparative performances and headline management fees of ZYAU against a collection of well-known active funds that focus on Australian equity and equity income. Low Cost Firstly, to note, ZYAU’s management fee compares favourably to the active funds, as would be expected. ZYAU charges a fee of 0.35% p.a., which is below all of the active funds profiled and significantly below the average active MER of 0.83% p.a. Consistent Strong Performance With regards to performance, since its inception in June 2015, ZYAU has generated 2.19% p.a. excess return over the S&P/ASX 200, which puts it ahead of 16 of the 17 active funds. Only Bennelong Australian Equities Fund has outperformed, due to a very strong start to 2018. In the calendar year 2017, ZYAU outperformed the S&P/ASX 200 by 0.63% and beat 14 of its 17 active peers. In 2016, ZYAU outperformed 16 of the 17 active funds profiled and produced 5.42% of excess return over the benchmark index. Since inception, ZYAU has delivered strong performance at a fraction of the cost of many of its active peers and should be, therefore, considered by investors looking for cost-effective excess returns. How ZYAU invests ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF (ZYAU) is well positioned for investors for the following reasons: ZYAU captures the performance of a selection of 40 high yielding Australian shares selected from the S&P/ASX 300 Index and rebalanced twice annually. ZYAU initially screens stocks based on liquidity, free cash flow to equity and dividend growth rates. This excludes stocks that are illiquid, are returning more cash to shareholders than they are earning, or have recently cut their dividend payouts. ZYAU then selects the 40 stocks with the highest shareholder yields for inclusion and weights them according to a mix of shareholder yield and market capitalisation. ZYAU has an MER of 0.35% p.a. ZYAU has a Recommended rating by Lonsec.

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Unhappy With Your Dividends Fund's Performance?

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Aug 22, 2017

ETFS S&P/ASX 300 High Yield Plus ETF (ZYAU) In this week’s ETF Securities trade idea we look at dividend yield strategies and how they can be used in different ways depending on the investor's goals. Dividend strategies can be implemented in different ways to achieve different goals, which have their own pros and cons. Beware of dividend traps, chasing yield may lead to poor investment choices. Capital growth versus income generation – don’t sacrifice one for the other.

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