Is DFA Emerging Markets I (DFEMX) a Strong Mutual Fund Pick Right Now?

If you have been looking for Mutual Fund Equity Report funds, a place to start could be DFA Emerging Markets I (DFEMX). DFEMX has a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank of 2 (Buy), which is based on various forecasting factors like size, cost, and past performance.

History of Fund/Manager

DFEMX is a part of the Dimensional family of funds, a company based out of Austin, TX. The DFA Emerging Markets I made its debut in April of 1994 and DFEMX has managed to accumulate roughly $3.94 billion in assets, as of the most recently available information. A team of investment professionals is the fund’s current manager.


Of course, investors look for strong performance in funds. DFEMX has a 5-year annualized total return of 0.28% and it sits in the top third among its category peers. But if you are looking for a shorter time frame, it is also worth looking at its 3-year annualized total return of 8.12%, which places it in the top third during this time-frame.

When looking at a fund’s performance, it is also important to note the standard deviation of the returns. The lower the standard deviation, the less volatility the fund experiences. DFEMX’s standard deviation over the past three years is 17.73% compared to the category average of 17.44%. Over the past 5 years, the standard deviation of the fund is 19.27% compared to the category average of 17.47%. This makes the fund more volatile than its peers over the past half-decade.

Risk Factors

Investors should note that the fund has a 5-year beta of 0.76, which means it is hypothetically less volatile than the market at large. Because alpha represents a portfolio’s performance on a risk-adjusted basis relative to a benchmark, which is the S&P 500 in this case, one should pay attention to this metric as well. DFEMX has generated a negative alpha over the past five years of -7.48, demonstrating that managers in this portfolio find it difficult to pick securities that generate better-than-benchmark returns.


Investigating the equity holdings of a mutual fund is also a valuable exercise. This can show us how the manager is applying their stated methodology, as well as if there are any inherent biases in their approach. For this particular fund, the focus is principally on equities that are traded in the United States.

Right now, 82.91% of this mutual fund’s holdings are stocks and it has a negligible amount of assets in foreign securities. Turnover is 0%, which means this fund makes fewer trades than the average comparable fund.


As competition heats up in the mutual fund market, costs become increasingly important. Compared to its otherwise identical counterpart, a low-cost product will be an outperformer, all other things being equal. Thus, taking a closer look at cost-related metrics is vital for investors. In terms of fees, DFEMX is a no load fund. It has an expense ratio of 0.36% compared to the category average of 1.13%. From a cost perspective, DFEMX is actually cheaper than its peers.

Investors need to be aware that with this product, the minimum initial investment is $0; each subsequent investment has no minimum amount.

Bottom Line

Overall, DFA Emerging Markets I ( DFEMX ) has a high Zacks Mutual Fund rank, and in conjunction with its comparatively strong performance, average downside risk, and lower fees, DFA Emerging Markets I ( DFEMX ) looks like a good potential choice for investors right now.

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