The SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA:SPY) has some nifty superlatives attached to it. Having debuted in 1993, SPY is the first ETF that listed in the U.S. As of April 10, 2019, SPY is home to $274.23 billion in assets under management, making it the world’s largest ETF.
SPY’s size is remarkable. Consider this: SPY has nearly $100 billion more in assets than the second-largest U.S. listed ETF, the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA:IVV). There are other important differences between SPY and its primary rivals, IVV and the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA:VOO), for investors to consider.
The Case for SPY’s Rivals
Long term, buy-and-hold investors may want to consider IVV or VOO over SPY. With an annual fee of 0.0945%, or $9.45 on a $10,000 investment, SPY fits the bill as a cheap ETF, but it is not cheap as its rivals. IVV and VOO both charge 0.04% per year. Additionally, due to the way SPY is structured, its dividends cannot be reinvested. Owing to the fact that SPY is one of the world’s oldest ETFs, it is structured as a unit investment trust (UIT).
Under the UIT structure, SPY’s dividends are held until the end of the quarters and paid out to shareholders. By not being able to reinvest dividends, SPY shareholders lose the potency of compounding, something that is not an issue with IVV or VOO.
Conversely, SPY is the go-to ETF for professional investors looking for cost-efficient, easy, liquid exposure to U.S. stocks. SPY’s tight bid/ask spreads ensure professional traders can transact in SPY in significant size without disrupting the underlying market. Additionally, SPY has a massive options market, often larger than the fund’s total assets under management, adding another layer of liquidity to the fund.
What You’re Getting With SPY
As its name implies, SPY tracks the venerable S&P 500, the world’s most widely followed equity benchmark. The weighted average market capitalization of SPY’s holdings is nearly $238 billion, confirming the S&P 500’s status as a mostly large-cap index.
The S&P 500 and the aforementioned ETFs are cap-weighted, meaning the largest U.S. companies command the biggest weights in the index and in SPY. As of April 10, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) combined for 10.73% of SPY’s weight.
The S&P 500 is home to 11 sectors with weights ranging from 2.68% for materials at the bottom to 21.46% for technology at the top. After technology, healthcare and financial services follow with weights of 14.30% and 12.80%, respectively.
Bottom Line on the SPY
The bottom line with SPY and the other ETFs mentioned here is that investors considering these funds are making a bet on U.S. stocks and the world’s largest economy. With that wager comes macro risk, including the Federal Reserve, electoral politics, geopolitical flare ups and more.
Imminently, the SPY thesis will be tested by first-quarter earnings reports and it is earnings that usually chart the course for SPY and rival funds.
“Industry analysts in aggregate predict the S&P 500 will see a 7.5% increase in price over the next twelve months,” according to FactSet. “This percentage is based on the difference between the bottom-up target price and the closing price for the index as of yesterday (April 4). The bottom-up target price is calculated by aggregating the median target price estimates (based on company-level estimates submitted by industry analysts) for all the companies in the index. On April 4, the bottom-up target price for the S&P 500 was 3096.66, which was 7.5% above the closing price of 2879.39.”
Healthcare and energy, two sectors that combine for almost 20% of SPY’s weight, are expected to see the largest price increases.
Todd Shriber owns shares of VOO.
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