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ETFs vs. Index Funds

tlydon@globaltrend.com (Tom Lydon)

Exchange traded funds have brought passive indexing, low cost and diversification qualities to the average retail investor to the dismay of some managers of traditional mutual funds.

Take, for instance, one of the first index fund portfolio pioneers, Dimensional Fund Advisors, a privately held firm with almost $250 billion assets in index funds, writes Mitch Tuchman for MarketWatch. The firm promotes its index funds as low-cost, highly competitive and based on better indexing methodologies, which will in turn generate higher returns than competitors.

However, some ETFs have similar strategies to DFA index funds.

For instance, the DFA US Micro Cap I (DFSCX) , with an expense ratio of 0.52%, has gained 0.91% year-to-date. In comparison, micro-cap ETFs, like the Guggenheim Wilshire Micro-Cap ETF (WMCR - News) , with an expense ratio of 0.64%, is up 7.94%, and the Powershares Zacks Micro Cap ETF (PZI - News) , with a 0.79% expense ratio, is 1.77% higher year-to-date.

Additionally, over the last five years, the DFA US Small Cap Value I (DFSVX) , with an expense ratio of 0.14%, has lost 3.3%, whereas the comparable iShares S&P SmallCap 600 Value Index (IJS - News) , with an expense of 0.25%, has only dipped 1.7%.

As the ETF industry expands and products proliferate, low-cost ETFs, which are available to any investor, have branched out into almost every aspect of the market. At the end of May, there were 1,465 U.S.-listed ETFs and exchange traded notes, with $1.14 trillion in assets under management.

Read the disclaimer; Tom Lydon is a board member of Guggenheim Investments.

For more information on ETF indexing, visit our indexing category.

Max Chen contributed to this article.