Our forward-looking fund research consistently identifies mutual funds and ETFs that outperform their benchmarks and warns investors of funds most likely to underperform. After rigorous analysis of ~1,000 ETFs, we identified another ETF with quality holdings at cheap valuations. Pacer US Small Cap Cash Cows 100 ETF (BATS:CALF) is this week's Long Idea.
We leverage our Robo-Analyst technology to analyze a fund's individual stock holdings and assess the overall quality of the fund. This uniquely rigorous approach enables us to create forward-looking ETF and mutual fund ratings based on the strength and valuation of the underlying businesses of the stocks held in a fund.
Our analysis of each of the holdings of CALF and its benchmark, the iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM), reveals CALF allocates more to highly profitable companies with cheap valuations than IWM. CALF earns our Very Attractive Predictive Fund Rating while IWM earns an Unattractive rating.
Per Figure 1, CALF allocates 57% of its assets to Attractive-or-better rated stocks compared to just 22% for IWM. On the flip side, CALF allocates just 10% of its assets to Unattractive-or-worse rated stocks compared to 35% for IWM.
Figure 1: CALF Allocates Capital to Superior Holdings than IWM
Per Figure 2, our holdings analysis also reveals CALF's portfolio is much higher quality than the S&P 500 as represented by State Street SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY). 17% of SPY's portfolio is allocated to Unattractive-or-worse rated stocks, while just 37% is allocated to Attractive-or-better rated stocks.
Figure 2: CALF Allocates Capital to Superior Holdings than SPY
Similar to its large-cap counterpart Pacer Funds U.S. Cash Cows 100 ETF (COWZ), which we made a Long Idea in March 2019 and highlighted again in April 2020, CALF adheres to a simple strategy that leads it to select a large number of stocks with an Attractive-or-better rating. CALF managers select the 100 companies with the highest trailing twelve month free cash flow yields from the S&P SmallCap 600 and weights them by FCF yield.
Focusing on FCF yield puts CALF's managers on the right track to identifying companies with quality cash flows and cheap valuations. Unlike traditional metrics such as price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios, FCF yield provides a much more accurate measure of value.
CALF's FCF yield focused methodology isn't just good on paper, but in practice too. The average FCF yield of CALF's holdings is 6%, which is greater than -1% for IWP and triple the FCF yield for the S&P 500. See details below.
Taking a closer look at each of CALF's holdings reveals the strength of its selection methodology. Out of the 89 CALF holdings under coverage:
Figure 3 contains our detailed rating for CALF, which includes each of the criteria we use to rate all ETFs under coverage. These criteria are the same for our Stock Rating Methodology, because the performance of an ETF's holdings equals the performance of the ETF after fees. Figure 3 also compares CALF's criteria ratings with those of IWM and SPY.
Figure 3: Pacer U.S. Small Cap Cash Cows 100 ETF Fund Breakdown
CALF's holdings are superior to IWM in all five criteria that make up our holdings/Portfolio Management rating and are superior to SPY in four out of five criteria. Specifically:
The stocks held by CALF generate higher-quality cash flows and have lower valuations than IWM. Market expectations for stocks held by CALF imply profits will fall 20% from current levels (measured by PEBV ratio) while the expectations embedded in IWM's holdings imply profits will grow by 190%.
CALF's 0.65% total annual costs are above the 0.4% simple average and 0.2% weighted average of the 69 other Small Cap Blend ETFs under coverage. CALF's managers' ability to identify high-quality stocks at cheap valuations helps to justify the fund's above-average fees. Figure 4 shows our breakdown of CALF's total annual costs.
Figure 4: CALF Total Annual Costs Breakdown
Simply buying an ETF or mutual fund based on past performance does not necessarily lead to outperformance. Only through holdings-based analysis can one determine if a mutual fund is allocating to stocks with businesses with high earnings quality and low valuations, as CALF does.
Most investors don't realize they can already get the sophisticated fundamental research that enables investors to overcome inaccuracies, omissions, and biases in legacy fundamental datasets. Our Robo-Analyst technology analyzes the holdings of all mutual funds and ETFs under coverage to avoid "the danger within." Our diligence on holdings allows us to cut through the noise and find mutual funds, like Pacer U.S. Small Cap Cash Cows 100 ETF, with a portfolio that suggests future performance will be strong.
As we showed in The Paradigm Shift to DIY ETFs, new technologies enable investors to create their own fund without any fees while also enabling better, more sophisticated weighting methodologies. If we reallocate the fund's holdings according to economic earnings, a more accurate picture of the true cash flows of a business, our customized fund allocates:
Compare the quality of stock allocation in our customized version of CALF vs. as-is CALF in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Pacer U.S. Small Cap Cash Cows 100 ETF Allocation Could Be Improved
This article originally published on June 15, 2022.
Disclosure: David Trainer, Kyle Guske II, and Matt Shuler receive no compensation to write about any specific stock, style, or theme.
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David is CEO of New Constructs (www.newconstructs.com). David is a distinguished investment strategist and corporate finance expert. He was a 5-yr member of FASB's Investors Advisory Committee. He is author of the Chapter “Modern Tools for Valuation” in The Valuation Handbook (Wiley Finance 2010).
Disclosure: I/we have no stock, option or similar derivative position in any of the companies mentioned, and no plans to initiate any such positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.