Go For The Top Tracker, Says Lyxor

In a new advertising campaign, Paris-based ETF issuer Lyxor stresses that its funds have “the power to perform in any market”.

“Four of Lyxor’s major equity ETFs delivered the best performance versus their benchmark index in 2012,” the firm says. “This proves that not all ETFs tracking the same benchmark index perform the same.”

Lyxor says its ETFs tracking the MSCI Emerging Markets, MSCI USA, EURO STOXX 50, and FTSE 100 indices did best over 2012 against their European peers. For each index, the peer group consisted of Lyxor’s ETF on a particular index and the four other largest European ETFs tracking the benchmark.

For investors seeking to invest in portfolios replicating these four emerging markets, Eurozone, US and UK equity indices, “our funds represent the most efficient way to gain exposure to these markets via an ETF”, Lyxor asserts.

In the case of the MSCI Emerging Markets index, for example, you’d have earned between 0.1 and 1.11 percent more in 2012 by holding Lyxor’s ETF than by owning competing funds tracking the same index from iShares, db x-trackers, UBS and Credit Suisse, according to the Paris-based issuer.

Measured against the index, the 2012 returns of the funds ranged from an underperformance of 0.87 percent from Lyxor’s ETF to a 1.98 percent underperformance by Credit Suisse.

Although ETFs’ ability to track their underlying indices is something that’s often taken for granted, in practice it’s much more difficult to achieve, say researchers at Morningstar in a new study of exchange-traded fund tracking.

In its study, Morningstar looked at both the tracking error (defined as the variability of an ETF’s return against its underlying benchmark) and the tracking difference (the extent to which a fund’s return departs from that of its benchmark over time) of 65 Europe-listed ETFs based on eight popular equity indices.

“Generally speaking, the ETFs we studied have done a very good job of limiting tracking error,” Morningstar concluded.

Those ETFs (“synthetic ETFs”) using derivatives contracts from a third party to track their indices tended to have lower tracking error than ETFs investing in the indices’ underlying stocks or bonds directly (“physical ETFs”), Morningstar found.

iShares, Europe’s dominant ETF issuer by assets under management, runs the vast majority of its funds as physical ETFs. Bank-owned issuers like Deutsche Bank’s db x-trackers and Société Générale’s Lyxor have historically used synthetic replication, with the parent banks providing derivatives contracts to the funds.

But while there were some differences in tracking error between physical and synthetic ETFs, the tracking difference over time between funds and their indices depended little on the replication method, Morningstar concluded.

And, as in the case of the five MSCI Emerging Markets ETFs cited by Lyxor in its new ad campaign, funds’ total expense ratios explained only part of their tracking difference from the underlying index, Morningstar found.

“We found that a fund’s total expense ratio (TER) is an important factor in determining its performance relative to its benchmark, but not the only determinant. Other factors such as securities lending income, cash drag, tax optimisation, rebalancing costs for physical ETFs and swap fees for synthetic ETFs can all impact a fund’s relative performance,” the researchers said.

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