Puzzled by Harvard's Weight in Emerging Market ETFs

by: Roger Nusbaum

Yesterday Paul Kedrosky (you read him, right?) posted some info about the holdings of the Harvard Management Company.

Before we get too far into this, I would remind that these are just the holdings of publicly traded stocks and funds directly managed by HMC, and not representative of the part of the fund that is hired out.

Below is the table that Paul had of the top ten holdings via filings dated December 31. That it is so heavy in narrower ETFs says a couple of things to me. Given their resources and personnel, if Harvard wanted to own more individual stocks they certainly have the wherewithal to pick more stocks. So I take the ETFs as a comment about individual stocks not having a great risk / reward proposition, which, if correct, is an interesting comment at SPX 800.

Also interesting is how heavy it is in emerging market ETFs. I'm not sure what to conclude from that. It actually seems rather unsophisticated. Perhaps it is beyond my grasp (there are plenty of smaller positions that are individual stocks) or some sort of manner of hiding out until things improve' the filing does not say how much is in cash.

Also odd is that almost 40% of the portfolio is in iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (NYSEARCA:EEM). I don't get it. In fact 72% appears to be in emerging market ETFs. I'm sure there is more to this story, but this makes a great argument for something I have been saying for a while about the endowments, which is: Read and learn as much as you can from them, but trying to emulate them is probably not a great idea.