An Analytical Performance Comparison of Exchanged Traded Funds with Index Funds: 2002-2010

Paper by Mohammad Sharifzadeh, Simin Hojat

Exchange bdf Traded Funds (ETFs) have been gaining increasing popularity in the investment community as is evidenced by the high growth both in the number of ETFs and their net assets since 2000. As ETFs are in nature similar to index mutual funds, in this paper we examined if this growing demand for ETFs can be explained through their outperformance as compared to index mutual funds. We considered the population of all ETFs with inception dates prior to 2002 and then for each ETF found all the passive index mutual funds that had the same investment style as the selected ETF and had inception date prior to 2002. Within each investment style we matched every ETF with all the passive index funds in that investment style and compared the performances of the matched pairs in terms of Sharp Ratios and risk adjusted buy and hold total returns for the period 2002-2010. We then applied the Wilcoxon signed rank test to examine if ETFs had better performances than index mutual funds during the sample period. Out of the 230 paired matches of all the styles, ETFs outperformed index mutual funds in 134 of the times in terms of Sharpe Ratio, however, the test of the hypothesis showed no statistically significant difference between ETFs and index funds performances in terms of Sharpe ratio. Out of the 230 paired matches of all the styles, ETFs outperformed index mutual funds in 125 of the times in terms of risk adjusted buy and hold total return, however, the test of hypothesis showed no statistically significant difference between ETFs and index funds performances in terms of risk adjusted buy and hold total return. These findings indicate there is statistically no significant difference between ETFs and passive index mutual funds performances at the fund level and investors’ choice between the two is related to product characteristics and tax advantages.

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