Richard Kang from ETFInvestor writes abt index performance on a global context.

Richard Kang submits: S&P has been publishing their Standard & Poor’s Indices Versus Active Funds Scorecard [SPIVA] results long enough for investors to understand that indices beat comparable funds more often than not. Fees and the costs of implementation are the main culprits for the difference. Really, the comparison should be with similar ETFs, not the index.

What is interesting in the latest SPIVA report from July 19th is that S&P has extended their work into international equities, including emerging markets. This is an area where many observers have commented on the outperformance of active managers versus their respective benchmark. Here are some comments from their press release related to the results of international equities from the report:

International Equities

SPIVA now reports on the performance of international funds versus their relative international S&P benchmark. For the first half of 2006, the SPIVA scorecard shows that indices outperformed actively managed funds. The S&P/Citigroup PMI outperformed 59.7% of global equity funds, the S&P/Citigroup PMI World ex U.S. outpaced 62.5% of international funds, the S&P/Citigroup EMI World Ex U.S. outperformed 63.3% of international small-cap funds, and the S&P/IFCI Composite outperformed 80.9% of emerging market equity funds. Similar to domestic equities, international indices outperformed actively managed funds over a three- and five-year basis.

While indices have historically outperformed actively managed domestic equity funds over long periods of time, our report provides the first evidence of this being true for fixed income and international equity funds,” says Srikant Dash, Index Strategist at Standard & Poor’s. “Even in relatively inefficient asset classes, such as Emerging Market Equities and High Yield Bonds, a majority of active funds underperformed benchmarks over five-year horizons.

Wow. 81% of emerging market equity funds underperformed the index. I’d like to know what the number is versus something like the MSCI EM Index. 81% just seems so big to me, but it really was a very bad May and June.

From the looks of it, core holdings for international equities should still be:

· Broad EAFE exposure: EFA or a combination of VGK/VPL
· Emerging market exposure: EEM or VWO
· Also watch to see what comes down the pipe from PowerShares (FTSE/RAFI) and WisdomTree

It’s looking more and more like we have to move towards a “portable alpha” world. If these numbers are correct, even emerging markets is an asset class where a passive instrument may make more sense than an active manager in the long run… or at least hold more ETFs than managed funds. Truly alpha oriented (beta-neutral) strategies, if they really exist after fees and are repeatable, is the only domain left for active management.

Otherwise, investors will have to become more like pension funds and give up liquidity to enter areas like infrastructure, timber, private equity and other alternative investments.

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