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Remember the Titans.

That would be the BMO Dow Jones Canada Titans 60 Index ETF we're talking about here, not the Denzel Washington movie. With more than 170 exchange-traded funds to choose from in the Canadian market, you could easily miss a small newcomer like this BMO product.

Unless you have the right tools for researching Canadian ETFs, that is. A screener, for instance. There's one available on the website of the money management firm PUR Investing that lets you do a search for Canadian ETFs based on asset class, region, style, size and sector. Do a search for core Canadian equity ETFs focusing on large companies and you get six names, including the BMO Titans 60 fund.

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If you prefer a survey of all ETFs available, can help. Using the site's stock filters, you can create a list of ETFs that trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. Don't stop with your master list of ETFs. By clicking on various page views and column headings, you can look such things as the ETFs with the highest dividend yields, the heaviest traders and the best or worst performers over various time frames.

The ETF screener offered by the independent fund analysis firm Morningstar lets you custom design a search using criteria like fees, performance, dividend yield and risk level (using a measure called standard deviation…don't worry, there's an explanation on the site).

Oddity: The BMO Titans 60 ETF has a management fee of 0.15 per cent, which is too low to be captured by the Morningstar screener (the low end of the scale is "greater than 0.15 per cent).

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A particularly versatile screener is offered by the website, which is aimed at investment advisers but available to investors who are willing to register on the site.

Among the things you can do with this screener - they call it a filter here - is set a maximum fee level and put limits on exposure to various sectors and regions. For bond ETFs, you can look at maturity (bonds that mature in a few years are more stable but offer lower yield than long term bonds) and the breakdown of corporate and government bonds.


For further research, there's a comparison tool on this site that lets you dissect two ETFs side by side. For example, let's say you were trying to decide between the BMO Titans 60 ETF and its much larger competitor, the iShares S&P/TSX 60 Index Fund. The two are very similar in terms of their holdings and sector weightings, so you'd want to make a decision based on factors like fees (shown in this tool) and trading volume, or liquidity (not shown - try Globeinvestor).

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Screening is helpful to find a short list of ETFs, but you're going to need some additional information to make a final decision. Head to Globeinvestor's ETF area and you'll find a list of articles that have appeared in the Globe on exchange-traded funds.

For example, my colleague John Heinzl took a look at last month and described the ways in which the yield on these funds is calculated. Go back to April and you'll find my detailed comparison of all TSX-listed bond ETFs.

If you scroll down the Globeinvestor ETF page you'll find several interesting pre-set screens, including ones that displays ETF with big leaps in trading activity (good for gauging changing market sentiment) and funds with both less and more volatility than the overall market.

Morningstar's ETF area includes some analyst reports on TSX-listed ETFs, which are a great resource. "A solid emerging markets play, but its relatively high fee detracts from its long-term appeal," Morningstar analyst Esko Mickels writes of the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund.

Watch Esko Mickels in conversation with Rob Carrick:

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ETF company websites should be regarded as online sales brochures, first and foremost, but some include useful tools for investors as well. For example, the iShares family of ETFs has a tool you can use to evaluate tracking errors in its products. This term refers to the gap between the returns of an ETF and its underlying index. Tracking error is a particular issue with global ETFs that use currency hedging.

The Claymore family's website includes sample portfolios - conservative, income-focused, aggressive growth etc. - that are built from the company's own fund inventory. Regardless of which brand of ETFs you use, these portfolios provide some guidance on sound portfolio building.

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Some high quality ETF analysis is done by investing and personal finance bloggers, a large percentage of whom are true believers in the index strategy. Try Canadian Capitalist, Canadian Financial DIY and Canadian Couch Potato, which is all about index investing and thus a must for ETF investors.

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Your Canadian ETF research centre



For screening the universe of ETFs to find ones suitable for you:

PUR Investing


For further research:


ETF companies:



Horizons AlphaPro

Horizons BetaPro


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