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For many investors, the S&P 500 Index is used as a gauge for the overall market activity in any given trading day. Investors who are interested in tracking the broad markets have a few exchange traded fund options that provide exposure to the benchmark index.

The three largest ETFs tied to the S&P 500 include the SPDR S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY), iShares S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:IVV) and Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (NYSEARCA:VOO). These funds try to reflect the performance of the S&P 500 Index, which is comprised of the 500 largest U.S. companies.

"The S&P 500 is a popular proxy for the U.S. market and as an indicator of the economic health of the nation," according to Morningstar analyst Michael Rawson. "Despite the fact that it lacks exposure to small-cap stocks, it has had more than a 99% correlation with the broad U.S. market and a 90% correlation to developed international stocks. "

SPDR S&P 500:

  • SPY is the largest ETF, with $106.7 billion in assets.
  • The fund has a 0.09% expense ratio.
  • The ETF sees a 204.7 million average trading volume with a 0.01% bid/ask spread.
  • The fund was trading at a 0.27% discount to its NAV.
  • SPY has a 1.95% yield.

iShares S&P 500:

  • IVV holds $31.0 billion in assets.
  • The fund has a 0.09% expense ratio.
  • The ETF trades with an average 4.2 million volume and a 0.01% bid/ask spread.
  • The fund was trading at a 0.23% discount to NAV.
  • IVV has a 1.93% yield.

Vanguard S&P 500:

  • VOO has $5.0 billion in assets.
  • The fund issues a 0.05% expense ratio.
  • The ETF has a 721,481 average trading volume and a 0.02% bid/ask spread.
  • The fund was trading at a 0.15% discount to NAV.
  • VOO has a 1.96% yield.

In comparing the different S&P 500 funds, it should be noted that the SPDR S&P 500 Fund is structured as a unit investment trust, which prevents the ETF from reinvesting dividends, lending securities or investing in futures. IVV is a 1940s Act Fund, which allows it to reinvest dividends, lend securities and use futures. VOO uses Vanguard's patented dual share class structure.

While SPY is the largest and most liquid ETF, only large institutional investors would see any noticeable liquidity differences between SPY and IVV. VOO is the smallest of the three but it is also the cheapest.

"With an expense ratio of just 0.06%, VOO has the lowest estimated holding cost but it has slightly higher market impact costs because of lower trading volumes," Rawson added.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

Disclosure: Tom Lydon's clients own SPY.

Source: Surveying S&P 500 ETF Options