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Keywords:

  • exchange-traded funds;
  • tracking errors;
  • fixed-income;
  • sovereign debt crisis

Abstract

This study examines the tracking performance of 31 eurozone sovereign debt exchange traded index funds (ETFs) during 2007–2010. The tracking performance is assessed by four different tracking error models. Overall, funds underperform their respective benchmarks. Active returns (net of fees) vary substantially (from +46.74 to −30.36 basis points) and are of considerable economic interest. The significant differences in the performance of swap-based and in-kind funds highlight the importance of appropriate (e.g. correlation vs. cointegration based) metrics required for the assessment of funds adopting different replication methods. We also document important changes in the tracking performance due to the changing characteristics of EU sovereign bonds since the start of the sovereign debt crisis.