BlackRock has recently introduced a set of four iShares ETFs that follow factor indices. They are:
- iShares MSCI USA Value Factor ETF (VLUE)
- iShares MSCI USA Size Factor ETF (SIZE)
- iShares MSCI USA Momentum Factor ETF (MTUM)
- iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor ETF (QUAL)
The first three of these ETFs debuted on April 16, 2013, while the fourth one three months later. Therefore, as of this writing, there are only 91 and 28 trading day data available for these ETFs, respectively. Traditionally, at least three years worth of data (a minimum of 36 monthly data points) are required to calculate a return correlation between two investments. However, it may be helpful to take an early look on how the return correlations among these ETFs and the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) are shaping up so far:
Since daily returns are assumed to contain a substantial amount of “noise,” and the observation period is very limited, the above figures certainly cannot be considered very reliable. However, there is an early indication that the majority of correlations are lower than 0.6, which should aid in portfolio diversification. A research paper from BlackRock shows that idealized zero-net-investment factor portfolios constructed using Fama-French approach* can have much lower long-term correlations:
*MktRf = market, SMB = size, HML = value, CME = quality.
Only time will tell whether these new factor ETFs provide low inter-correlations and sufficient returns to truly benefit an investment portfolio. However, early signs are encouraging.