Low-Risk Value ETF

10/03/2013 9:00 am EST


Todd Rosenbluth

Senior Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research, CFRA Research


Although there is a lot for investors to be nervous about, the S&P Capital IQ's Equity Strategy Group believes the S&P 500 Index will rise an additional 9% over the next 12 months, notes Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF Research for S&P Capital IQ.

Seeking to find balance between these two factors, we highlight Vanguard Mega Cap Value (MGV), a top-ranked ETF with a favorably low-risk profile, based on its record, and, more importantly, its holdings.

MGV holds approximately 160 stocks that collectively are viewed as attractive, according to S&P Capital IQ equity analysts, and have strong risk attributes, as assessed using S&P Capital IQ Quality Rankings and S&P Capital IQ's Risk Assessment.

The ETF seeks to track the CRSP Mega Cap Value Index, an index run through the University of Chicago that defines value securities based on book-to-price, forward earnings-to-price, historical earnings-to-price, dividend-to-price, and sales-to-price ratios.

The median market capitalization of the index constituents at the end of June was $25 billion, but the size of each ranged from $2 billion to $400 billion.

The largest holding, with a 5%-plus weighting, is Exxon Mobil (XOM). The stock is one of the many that is seen, as both attractive, and offering low-risk, according to S&P Capital IQ.

While S&P Capital IQ has a Hold recommendation on the ETF's second largest position, Microsoft (MSFT), this stock also contributes favorably to MGV's low-risk profile.

The third largest holding is Johnson & Johnson (JNJ); S&P Capital IQ equity analyst Herman Saftlas has a Buy recommendation on the shares, as he views JNJ as uniquely situated in growing global health care markets, with solid positions in drugs, medical devices, and consumer products.

Overall, five of the ETF's ten largest positions receive an S&P Capital IQ Buy or Strong Buy recommendation and seven of them receive an above-average S&P Quality Ranking of A- or higher.

Besides XOM and JNJ, the stocks that meet both criteria are Chevron (CVX) and General Electric (GE). Historically, stocks with S&P Capital IQ Quality Rankings of A- or higher have exhibited reduced volatility, though past performance is not indicative of future results.

In addition, MGV's expense ratio of 0.12% is relatively low and its standard deviation of just 13.0 is viewed favorably. The bid/ask spread is relatively tight, despite average trading volume recently around 50,000 shares. However, the ETF trades essentially in line with net asset value.

While S&P Capital IQ's ranking is not tied to past performance relative to a specific peer group, the year-to-date gain of 22.7% through September 20 was slightly ahead of its Lipper peers, while the three-year record of 16.0% was approximately 85 basis points stronger.

The asset base, though still much lower than many other Vanguard US-focused equity offerings, has been climbing steadily throughout the past year and now exceeds $600 million.

For investors seeking large-cap US equity exposure with a low-risk profile, we believe MGV is worthy of further attention. It holds a number of attractively valued stocks with favorable S&P Capital IQ Quality Rankings and has a modest expense ratio.

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