Structural Slippage of Leveraged ETFs
17 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2012 Last revised: 18 Sep 2012
Date Written: August 10, 2012
The daily rebalancing of a leveraged exchange traded fund(LETF) requires the fund manager to systematically modify the amount of index exposure. In order to achieve the investment objective of the fund, managers of LETFs use total return swaps with the appropriate leverage ratio. This daily rebalancing may open the possibility of front-running and other market frictions. We constructed shorting trades in order to capture any existing slippage resulting from the daily rebalancing of LETFs. Our data unequivocally shows that the cumulative effect of rebalancing costs cannot be ignored. For holding periods of one day, even after accounting for compounding costs, LETFs fail to perform as expected.
In order to gain a full understanding of the performance of these trades, it was crucial to take into account the borrowing rates for shorting LETFs. We calculated the difference between the slippage and the borrowing rates and found that in 16 out of the 21 trades the mean value of the difference is strictly positive with 95 percent confidence. Precisely because LETFs have negative expected returns with respect to their benchmark index, if they are not offset by high borrowing costs, then systematic shorting yields an arbitrage opportunity.
Keywords: Leveraged ETFs, slippage, short-selling costs
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