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number cruncher

What are we looking for?

U.S. equity ETFs to provide access to an efficient market.

The screen

In terms of market efficiencies, our neighbours south of the border have it a bit better than us here in Canada. With ample choice of companies in each sector, healthy trading volumes and robust analyst coverage, many investors view the U.S. market as one where alpha – the ability to produce returns in excess of the market – is increasingly difficult to find. A recent perusal of Morningstar’s database of fund ratings only reinforces this impression. When looking across the 1,166 exchange-traded funds from Canadian-domiciled providers, I found that the category with the most four- and five-star ETFs was indeed U.S. equities. In fact, 96 of the 241 ETFs in the U.S. equity category currently have four- or five-star ratings (recall that Morningstar’s star ratings are based on a backward look at actual risk-adjusted returns after fees relative to peers).

Morningstar places mutual funds and ETFs in the same universe when it comes to these ratings, since in reality mutual funds are competing directly with ETFs for coveted positions in your portfolio. Put another way, a disproportionate number of U.S. equity investment vehicles that have outperformed the category average are offered as ETFs. Moreover, many of these ETFs are passive or indexed products echoing the statement about market efficiencies. Hence it would be reasonable for an investor to at least consider ETFs as an option for exposure to U.S. equity markets.

For ideas along these lines, I continued my search by also screening for U.S. equity ETFs that have a Morningstar Quantitative Rating or Morningstar Analyst Rating of gold, silver or bronze. This rating, unlike the star rating, is Morningstar’s forward-looking assessment of a fund’s ability to outperform. In the years that the rating has been in existence we’ve found that as a group, medalist-rated funds (gold, silver or bronze) have outperformed neutral or negatively rated funds, after receiving their ratings.

More about Morningstar

Morningstar Research Inc. is a leading provider of independent investment research in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Morningstar offers an extensive line of products and services for individual investors, financial advisers, asset managers, retirement plan providers and sponsors, and institutional investors. Morningstar Direct is the firm’s multi-asset analysis platform built for asset management and financial services professionals. Morningstar Canada on Twitter: @MorningstarCDN.

What we found

U.S. equity ETFs

Exchange-traded fundTickerMorningstar Rating OverallMorningstar Quantitative RatingMER (%)YTD Ttl. Rtn. (%)1Y Ttl. Rtn. (%)3Y Ann. Ttl. Rtn. (%)5Y Ann. Ttl. Rtn. (%)10Y Ann. Ttl. Rtn. (%)CurrencyInception Date
Invesco Nasdaq 100 Index ETFQQC-F-T5 StarsBronze0.2616.932.525.725.021.4CAD2011-06-08
iShares Nasdaq 100 ETF (CAD-Hedged)XQQ-T5 StarsBronze0.3916.632.325.524.921.4CAD2011-05-03
BMO Nasdaq 100 Equity Hgd. to CAD ETFZQQ-T5 StarsBronze0.3916.632.225.424.821.3CAD2010-01-19
Manulife Multifactor US Lrg Cap ETF UnHMULC-B-T4 StarsSilver0.3617.929.315.3n/an/aCAD2017-04-10
Vanguard US Total Market ETFVUN-T4 StarsGold*0.1616.828.816.216.3n/aCAD2013-08-02
iShares Core S&P US Total Mkt ETFXUU-T4 StarsGold*0.0717.728.515.616.4n/aCAD2015-02-10
Mackenzie US Large Cap Equity ETFQUU-T4 StarsSilver0.0717.928.217.2n/an/aCAD2018-01-24
TD U.S. Equity Index ETFTPU-T4 StarsSilver0.0817.928.217.217.2n/aCAD2016-03-22
Horizons Nasdaq 100 ETFHXQ-U-T5 StarsBronze0.2815.627.525.725.7n/aUSD2016-04-19
BMO S&P 500 ETF (CAD)ZSP-T4 StarsSilver*0.0918.327.316.416.6n/aCAD2012-11-14
iShares Core S&P 500 ETFXUS-T4 StarsGold*0.1018.227.216.316.6n/aCAD2013-04-10
Horizons S&P 500 ETFHXS-T4 StarsGold0.1018.227.216.316.618.4CAD2010-11-30
BMO MSCI USA High Quality ETFZUQ-T4 StarsSilver0.3318.927.220.319.6n/aCAD2014-11-05
Vanguard S&P 500 ETFVFV-T4 StarsGold*0.0818.027.016.416.4n/aCAD2012-11-02
RBC Quant US Equity Leaders ETF (USD)RUE-U-T4 StarsSilver0.4319.026.614.815.3n/aUSD2015-05-04
Dynamic Active U.S. Dividend ETFDXU-T4 StarsBronze0.8011.221.919.3n/an/aCAD2017-01-20

Source: Morningstar Direct. Data as of Aug. 17. * denotes Morningstar Analyst Rating, all others are Morningstar Quantitative Ratings

Canadian-domiciled U.S. equity funds & ETFs: category average performance

The funds that meet the above requirement are listed in the table, which is sorted by one-year total returns, alongside their ratings, trailing performance, management expense ratios, inception dates, and currency.

For reference, the category average performance for U.S. equity funds and ETFs is also displayed. Of note are MULC.B, ZUQ, and RUE.U, which are not pure passive ETFs. Rather, Morningstar considers them “strategic beta” ETFs that straddle the line between active and passive. These types of ETFs typically use quantitative investment techniques to invest to a consistent style. DXU is an actively managed ETF. Also note that some of these ETFs are available in both hedged and unhedged versions for those who seek exposure to U.S. equities and wish to select whether or not they’d like to gain exposure to a fluctuating exchange rate.

This article does not constitute financial advice. It is always recommended to speak with a financial adviser or professional before purchasing any of the products listed here.

Ian Tam, CFA, is director of investment research for Morningstar Canada.

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