The long-lagging value factor is up to its old tricks again. That’s not good news for investors holding some of the more basic value funds.
Amid the market swoon forced by the novel coronavirus pandemic, value funds and stocks are betraying expectations that this group can be less volatile and more durable than their growth rivals in rough environments.
Leadership from sectors such as communication services and technology is helping growth funds remain sturdy this year while value funds sag.
Consider the following: the S&P 500 Growth Index is lower by 1.5% year-to-date, while the S&P 500 Value Index is off nearly 21%. Annualized volatility on the two benchmarks is comparable to this point in 2020.
Still, value funds may hold some allure for patient investors because the factor hasn’t been this inexpensive against momentum fare in, well, forever. Additionally, investors may be able to locate credible value in value funds that refresh the proposition rather than simply rely on price-to-book and price-to-earnings ratios.
Here are five value funds that may be worth considering even while the concept is under scrutiny:
- Principal Contrarian Value Index ETF (NASDAQ:PVAL)
- The Acquirers Fund ETF (NYSEARCA:ZIG)
- Xtrackers Russell 1000 US Quality at a Reasonable Price ETF (NYSEARCA:QARP)
- DFA US Large Cap Value I (MUTF:DFLVX)
- John Hancock Disciplined Value I (MUTF:JVLIX)
Principal Contrarian Value Index ETF (PVAL)
Expense ratio: 0.29% per year, or $29 on a $10,000 investment
The Principal Contrarian Value Index ETF fits the bill as a value fund with a unique methodology – one that could be effective as value investing adjusts to shifting market trends. For starters, PVAL excludes utilities from its roster. That’s meaningful because the group, though defensive, is often richly valued due to its low volatility and above-average yield.
Second, PVAL’s underlying index – the Nasdaq U.S. Contrarian Value Index – separates financial services stocks from other sectors to find value in other areas. Financials account for 12.76% of this fund’s roster, but that’s a significant underweight compared to more traditional rivals in this category. Rather than emphasizing price-to-book and price-to-earnings, PVAL focuses on book yield, a strategy that’s particularly useful when value stocks are extremely inexpensive as they are today.
This value fund has 260 holdings with an average market value of $10.1 billion, so it’s essentially a small large-cap or large mid-cap idea. Confirming its different approach, PVAL allocates almost a quarter of its weight to technology and consumer cyclical stocks, sectors that are often a scant part of old school value funds.
The Acquirers Fund ETF (ZIG)
Expense ratio: 0.94% per year
The Acquirers Fund ETF is another example of a deep value fund with a different approach. In fact, ZIG is actually a long/short ETF, with a short element targeting richly valued stocks with flimsy financials and fundamentals.
ZIG’s index – the Acquirer’s Index – includes both mid- and large-cap exposure among its long positions.
“The long portfolio is rebalanced quarterly to hold those stocks at the deepest discount to Acquirers’ assessment of value, and the strongest fundamentals,” according to the issuer.
One advantage with ZIG is that it capitalizes on differences between standard value stocks and deep value names. The former are merely inexpensive by some metrics, while the latter are extremely inexpensive to the point that they can be takeover targets or simply revert back to fair value. Either way, those are positive scenarios for investors.
Xtrackers Russell 1000 US Quality at a Reasonable Price ETF (QARP)
Expense ratio: 0.19% per year
Just over two years old, the Xtrackers Russell 1000 US Quality at a Reasonable Price ETF blends two popular factors: quality and value. That’s relevant for a couple of reasons. First, quality is extending its leadership established last year this year. Second, quality stocks rarely intersect with value because the form usually has a cost admission to access those quality traits.
With this quasi-value fund, both factors are capped so one doesn’t dominate the other, a strategy that also limits factor risk and biases. Mixing in quality works because QARP is outperforming traditional large-cap value funds this year by an average of more than 700 basis points.
QARP’s quality leanings have positive sector- and holdings-level effects for the fund because it features notable exposure to stocks often excluded from standard value funds, including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) to name just two.
DFA US Large Cap Value I (DFLVX)
Expense ratio: 0.26% per year
The DFA US Large Cap Value I is an actively-managed mutual fund. It’s an inexpensive one at that as its fee is among the lowest in its respective category. That’s part of the good news. The bad news is that, broadly speaking, active managers struggle in the value category, regardless of market cap spectrum. Plus, DFLVX doesn’t have a minimum investment, which is often a hallmark of active funds.
Still, DFLVX is one of the steadier names in the large-cap value fund category, earning a Morningstar rating of “silver” for its solid performance and low fees.
“This is a fairly low turnover strategy,” according to the research firm. “That is because the weightings of the fund’s holdings are linked to their market prices, and its price/book selection criterion tends to be more stable than most other value metrics, like price/earnings. Low turnover helps mitigate transaction costs.”
DFLVX is overweight financials, healthcare, communication services and technology stocks relative to the category average.
John Hancock Disciplined Value I (JVLIX)
Expense ratio: 0.80% per year
Though more expensive than the aforementioned active rival, the John Hancock Disciplined Value I is steady in its own right. The two managers currently running the show have been leading the fund for an average of 19 years. While they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, their replacements are already on board and have been part of the team for several years.
Compared to some other large-cap value funds, JVLIX has a focused lineup, usually running between 80 and 90 holdings, leaning toward financial services and healthcare stocks at the moment.
“The fund’s preference for healthcare and financials stocks over companies in sectors like utilities and consumer staples with higher valuations relative to their growth potential reflects Boston Partners’ firmwide approach,” notes Morningstar.
The rub: this is fund is reserved for well-heeled investors as it carries an lofty $250,000 minimum investment.
Todd Shriber has been an InvestorPlace contributor since 2014. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.