Comparing Lipper Ratings

By Charles Boccadoro

lipper_logoOriginally published in November 1, 2015 Commentary

MFO recently started computing its risk and performance fund metrics and attendant fund ratings using the Lipper Data Feed Service for U.S. Open End funds. (See MFO Switches To Lipper Database.) These new data have now been fully incorporated on the MFO Premium beta site, and on the Great Owl, Fund Alarm, and Dashboard of Profiled Funds pages of our legacy Search Tools. (The Risk Profile and Miraculous Multi-Search pages will be updated shortly).

Last month we noted that the biggest difference MFO readers were likely to find was in the assigned classifications or categories, which are described in detail here. (Morningstar’s categories are described here, and Lipper nicely compares the two classification methodologies here.) Some examples differences:

  • Lipper uses “Core” instead of “Blend.” So, you will find Large-Cap Growth, Large-Cap Core, and Large Cap Value.
  • Lipper includes a “Multi-Cap” category, in addition to Large-Cap, Medium-Cap, and Small-Cap. “Funds that, by portfolio practice, invest in a variety of market capitalization ranges …” Examples are Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Inv (VTSMX), Auxier Focus Inv (AUXFX), and Bretton (BRTNX).
  • Lipper does not designate an “Asset Allocation” category type, only “Equity” and “Fixed Income.” The traditional asset allocation funds, like James Balanced: Golden Rainbow Retail (GLRBX) and Vanguard Wellesley Income Inv (VWINX) can be found in the categories “Mixed-Asset Target Allocation Moderate” and “Mixed-Asset Target Allocation Conservative,” respectively.
  • Lipper used “Core Bond” instead of say “Intermediate-Term Bond” to categorize funds like Dodge & Cox Income (DODIX).
  • Lipper extends data back to January 1960 versus January 1962. Number of funds still here today that were here in January 1960? Answer: 72, including T Rowe Price Growth Stock (PRGFX).

A few other changes that readers may notice with latest update:

  • Ratings for funds in all the commodities categories, like Commodities Agriculture, where previously we only included “Broad Basket.”
  • Ratings for funds of leveraged and short bias categories, so-called “trading” funds.
  • Ratings for 144 categories versus 96 previously. We continue to not rate money market funds.
  • No ratings for funds designated as a “variable insurance product,” which typically cannot be purchased directly by investors. Examples are certain Voya, John Hancock, and Hartford funds.
  • There may be a few differences in the so-called “Oldest Share Class (OSC)” funds. MFO has chosen to define OSC as share class with earliest First Public Offering (FPO) date. (If there is a tie, then fund with lowest expense ratio. And, if tied again, then fund with largest assets under management.)

Overall, the changes appear quite satisfactory.

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About Charles Boccadoro

Charles Boccadoro, BS (MIT), Post Graduate Diploma (von Karman Institute, BELGIUM). Associate editor, data wizard. Described by Popular Science as “enthusiastic, voluble and nattily-dressed,” Charles describes himself as “a recently retired aerospace engineer.” He doesn’t brag about a 30 year career that included managing Northrop Grumman’s Quiet Supersonic Platform and Future Strike Systems projects, working with NASA and receiving a host of industry accolades. Charles is renowned for thoughtful, data-rich analyses and is the driving force behind the Observer’s fund ratings and fund screeners.