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Sweeping changes under way at DFA

For the first time in more than 20 years, Dimensional Fund Advisors is changing the way it builds equity portfolios.

Thanks to a breakthrough in asset-pricing research last year, DFA is adding a third layer of screening to its equity portfolios, which already tilt toward small and value stocks. The new layer, or dimension, focuses on a company’s persistence of profitability — basically a stock’s ability to earn a profit consistently.

The idea that a profitable company is going to perform better than a less profitable company over time isn’t a new idea. In fact, it is kind of common sense.

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The challenge for DFA, which

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