For several years Vanguard was seen as the champion of low-cost investing. It led the revolution in ever-lower cost ETFs. However, just recently, it seems to have fallen on hard times as it is facing challenges on multiple fronts. In particular, it is suffering at the hands of Fidelity, which is undercutting it on fund pricing. Fidelity’s recent no-fee index funds mean they are even cheaper than Vanguard’s lowest cost funds. The second, and perhaps even more worrisome challenge, relates to investment minimums, which Fidelity did away with on its cheapest funds. Vanguard’s minimums are now starting to look old-fashioned by comparison.
FINSUM: The best way for Vanguard to compete would be to merge some of the classes of their products. However, doing so would require a big revenue haircut, all of which means the company has some tough choices to make.
Fidelity made a huge splash in the asset and wealth management world’ about a month ago when it launched the markets first completely free indexed mutual funds, and with no investment minimums. The move sparked big share price losses for other asset managers and seemed to spell doom for the industry. But how have the funds actually performed so far? The answer is well. The pair of funds have taken in almost $1 bn of client money in just a month, which is considered a solid success.
FINSUM: We think this is a good showing for Fidelity, but one of the other issues the zero fee funds have brought up is that there are many other terms of index funds that investors need to pay close attention to. Not just price.
Passive funds have seen a meteoric rise since the Financial Crisis, with AUM soaring by trillions. But within that huge growth, what have been the best returning passive funds? Financial Planning produced a slide show presenting the twenty best. The top performing funds list is dominated by the big three providers—BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, who also have 82% of all passive AUM. The top five returning funds are the SPDR S&P Biotech (XBI), Invesco Dynamic Pharmaceuticals ETF (PJP), the First Trust NYSE Arca Biotech ETF (FBT), the Invesco Nasdaq Internet ETF (PNQI), and the First Trust Dow Jones Internet ETF (FDN).
FINSUM: Looks like biotech and tech stocks had a great decade (nor surprise there). The rest of the top twenty is similarly dominated by tech and healthcare, but consumer stocks, defense, and semiconductors also show up.
We do not cover Bitcoin very much, but we thought it would be worthwhile to give an update today, especially as advisors may have some clients who are very interested in the area. Most are aware that the cryptocurrency has plunged from late last year, but had been enjoying a minor rally of late. That has come to end abrupt end though, capped off by another SEC rejection/delay of a Bitcoin ETF. The SEC delayed a decision on a new Bitcoin ETF until the end of September, which sent the market plunging ~8%. Bitcoin is now trading around $6,500, way down from its $20,000 peak.
FINSUM: This newest Bitcoin delay is more worrisome as it was the most promising proposal on the table. The proposal, in part from top ETF provider Van Eck, was to actually hold Bitcoin instead of Bitcoin futures, which one would think would alleviate some of the SEC’s worries. We think this will eventually make it through, and when it does, Bitcoin might become a more mainstream asset class.
Here is some good news for mutual fund investors. While many ETFs have been absolutely hammered by the selloff in FANG shares, many mutual funds have largely evaded the losses. According to Goldman, the average large cap mutual fund is underweight three out of four of the FANGs. Mutual fund managers had frequently grown uncomfortable with the FANGs’ soaring valuations, and as such, many had trimmed their exposure.
FINSUM:Some of the benefits of active management (and the downside of passives) are really exemplified in this data. A win for mutual fund investors.