Vanguard large cap index fund tracking error

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Vanguard large cap index fund tracking error measures Vanguard's indexing performance. Tracking error is the ultimate measure of judging an index fund manager's performance.

Since an index manager does not engage in security selection with an index fund, it is the manager's transactional skill which distinguishes performance. How well the manager uses index futures, cross trading, block trading and manages trading around index reconstitution determines how close the manager can track the index benchmark. [1] Vanguard, in its attempt to closely track index returns, utilizes the following trading policies:

  • Rebalance each portfolio every business day to eliminate or reduce risk factor differences between funds and indexes.
  • Strive to be 100% invested at all times, using futures and ETFs to equitize cash for full investment, with no cash drag and no leverage.
  • Trade carefully, matching execution prices to fund share valuation.
  • Leverage cross-trading opportunities with Vanguard's many other investment funds, reducing or eliminating commissions and transaction charges.
  • Maintain tight controls over commissions, bid-ask spreads, and market impact. For example, our proprietary portfolio systems establish minimum trade sizes to control transaction costs. [2]

Tracking error

Table 1. provides the long term average tracking errors for Vanguard's large cap index funds. (Please note we have data going back to 1993 for the 500 Index fund; the fund began operations in 1976.) With the increased availability of admiral share classes (reduced minimum investment $10,000) we provide tracking error data for both investor and admiral shares. The lower expense admiral shares produce tighter tracking of benchmark returns.

We should note that the historical tracking errors are less than the expense ratios for the funds, meaning that the index manager has provided added returns to fund investors through transactional efficiency. Detailed annual tracking error data (along with additional statistical measurement of fund returns) are provided in the footnote tables.


Table 1. Vanguard Index Fund Tracking Errors [3]
Fund Investor shares Admiral shares
Year Tracking Error Year Tracking Error
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index [note 1]
Investor Admiral
1993-2014 -0.14% 2001-2014 -0.02%
Vanguard 500 Index[note 2]
Investor Admiral
1984-2014 -0.18% 2001-2014 -0.03%
Vanguard Large Cap Index [note 3]
Investor Admiral
2004-2014 -0.19% 2004-2014 -0.05%
Vanguard Growth [note 4]
Investor Admiral
1993-2014 -0.15% 2001-2014 -0.07%
Vanguard Value [note 5]
Investor Admiral
1993-2014 -0.14% 2001-2014 -0.03%


Benchmark index changes

The Vanguard Total Market, Growth, and Value index funds have changed benchmark tracking indices over their history. The Total Market fund changed from Wilshire to MSCI indices; the two style index funds shifted from S&P indices to MSCI indices. Table 2 provides a breakdown of tracking error to each benchmark index. The table also provides the tracking errors since the inception of admiral shares in each fund.

Table 2. Vanguard Index Fund Benchmark Tracking Errors
Fund Prior MSCI CRSP Investor shares
(2001-2014)
Admiral shares
(2001-2014)
Index Tracking Error Index Tracking Error Index Tracking Error
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Dow Jones Wilshire 5000
through April 22, 2005
-0.17% MSCI US Broad
Market through 2013
-0.02% CRSP Total Market -0.15% -0.13% -0.02%
Vanguard Large Cap Index n/a n/a MSCI US Prime
Market through 2013
-0.20% CRSP Large Cap -0.23% -0.18% -0.05%
Vanguard Growth Index S&P 500/Barra Growth
through May 16, 2003
-0.07% MSCI US Prime
Market Growth through 2013
-0.20% CRSP Large Cap Growth -0.22% -0.20% -0.07%
Vanguard Value Index S&P 500/Barra Value
through May 16, 2003
-0.12% MSCI US Prime
Market Value through 2013
-0.15% CRSP Large Cap Value -0.24% -0.15% -0.03%

Notes

  1. Table
    Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund
    (View Google Spreadsheet in browser, then File --> Download as to download the file.)
  2. Table
    Vanguard 500 Index Fund
    (View Google Spreadsheet in browser, then File --> Download as to download the file.)
  3. Table
    Vanguard Large Cap Index Fund
    (View Google Spreadsheet in browser, then File --> Download as to download the file.)
  4. Table
    Vanguard Growth Index Fund
    (View Google Spreadsheet in browser, then File --> Download as to download the file.)
  5. Table
    Vanguard Value Index Fund
    (View Google Spreadsheet in browser, then File --> Download as to download the file.)


References