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The first half of 2011 is officially in the books, and many investors find their portfolios in approximately the same place as they were to start the year (though a furious rally in the final week of the quarter gave a nice boost at an opportune moment). Most major equity indexes are up slightly on the year, while fixed income benchmarks have similarly hovered around breakeven. Beyond these broad generalizations, there are some significant performance discrepancies among exchange-traded products that may seem to offer up similar risk/return profiles.

The following tables highlight the top performers from every ETFdb Category during the first six months of the year, shedding some light on the asset classes that have struggled and thrived so far in 2011–and reinforcing that the seemingly minor distinctions between ETPs can lead to big differences in performance [for monthly updates on the best performers, sign up for the free ETFdb newsletter]: [click to continue…]

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In the summer of 1992, Eugene Fama and Kenneth French published “The Cross-Section of Expected Stock Returns” in The Journal of Finance, a groundbreaking analysis that prompted financial presses to run headlines declaring “beta is dead.” While the death sentence may have been a bit severe, it struck a significant blow to a widely-accepted and longstanding financial concept, causing academics and investors to reconsider tenets they once took for granted.

In recent decades, a collection of academic studies, disillusioned investors, and financial innovations have contributed to a similar prognosis for beta’s Greek neighbor, alpha. The idea that was hatched by Brinson and Hood and supported by the likes of Ibbotson and Kaplan and Barras and Scaillet was fueled by years of investor frustration. Following the introduction and rapid rise in the popularity of indexing and ETFs, it seemed that what started out as a scholarly whisper had grown into a deafening roar. The proclamation didn’t come from a single voice or article, but was the collective result of years of research and investor sentiment that has seemingly led to a fatal promulgation: alpha is dead.

Or is it?

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