A recent piece in Barron’s features the T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth Fund (PRDGX). This $5.9 billion no-load fund sports a competitive 0.64% expense ratio and 25% turnover. According to the article, the fund

…has outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 index year to date and over one-, three-, 10-, and 15-year periods. So far this year, it has returned 10.21%, versus 8.4% for the S&P 500.

Unlike our previous analysis, which covered a longer-term performance of the fund, this evaluation will generally focus on a recent shorter time period.

The prospectus benchmark for the fund is the S&P 500® Index. One of the long-lived and efficient implementations of this index is the SPDR® S&P 500® ETF (SPY). Alpholio™’s calculations indicate that over the five-year interval through July 2016, the fund returned more than the ETF in only 16% of all rolling 36-month periods, 22% of 24-month periods and 47% of 12-month periods. The median cumulative (not annualized) return difference over a rolling 36-month period was minus 3%.

To adjust for the fund’s volatility, let’s employ the simplest variant of Alpholio™’s patented methodology. In this approach, a reference portfolio of ETFs with fixed both membership and weights is constructed such that its returns most closely track those of the fund. Here is the resulting chart and statistics of the cumulative RealAlpha™ for the T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth (to learn more about this and other performance measures, please visit our FAQ):

Cumulative RealAlpha™ for T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth Fund (PRDGX)

Over the five years through July 2016, the fund subtracted value on a risk-adjusted basis. The fund’s volatility, measured as a standard deviation of monthly returns, was comparable to that of the reference ETF portfolio. The RealBeta™ of the fund was slightly lower than that of a broad-based equity ETF.

The following chart with related statistics shows the constant composition of the reference ETF portfolio over the same analysis period:

Reference Weights for T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth Fund (PRDGX)

The fund had major equivalent positions in the Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM), PowerShares Dynamic Large Cap Growth Portfolio (PWB), First Trust Large Cap Growth AlphaDEX® Fund (FTC), PowerShares S&P 500 Quality Portfolio (SPHQ), iShares U.S. Industrials ETF (IYJ), and Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG). The Other component in the chart collectively represents six additional ETFs with smaller weights (15.6% in total).

Over the three-year period through July 2016, the fund still failed to add a meaningful amount of value over its reference ETF portfolio:

Cumulative RealAlpha™ for T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth Fund (PRDGX) over 3 Years

The composition of the reference portfolio over this shorter period was different from the previous one, although the top-six equivalent positions also accounted for more than 80% of holdings.

Over the most recent three and five years, the T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth Fund failed to add a significant amount of value when compared to a static reference ETF portfolio. Similarly to 2014, the fund had a substantial long-term capital gain distributions in 2015, which diminished its suitability for taxable accounts. The relatively low expense ratio and modest turnover work in the fund’s favor.

To learn more about the T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth and other mutual funds, please register on our website.

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