Financials the High Yield Way

ETF Trends

To be fair to the largest U.S. money center banks, plenty of the marquee national and regional names have made strides in boosting their dividends since the end of the financial crisis.

There are notable exceptions such as Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (NYSE: C) and it should be noted that few if any major U.S. banks have brought their payouts all the way back to pre-crisis levels. Still, the financial services sector has been one of the leading drivers of S&P 500 dividend growth over the past several years. [Some Dividend ETFs Flourish as Rates Rise]

Although mainstream bank dividends leave something to be desired, that does not mean all financial services exchange traded funds are afflicted with low yields. Far from it in the case of the $231.2 million PowerShares KBW High Dividend Yield Financial Portfolio (KBWD) . KBWD captures investors’ attention with a trailing 12-month yield of 7.5% while offering up a little something for those in need of steady of income with a monthly payout.

KBWD is home to 38 stocks, none of which are comparable to a J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) or Wells Fargo. Rather, KBWD’s pure play bank holdings qualify as regional banks, think Bank of Hawaii (BOH) and New York Community Bancorp (NYCB).

The ETF’s exposure to regional banks is important on another level. It acts as a buffer/benefit for KBWD should Treasury yields continue higher. A benefit because regional banks have been highlighted as probable winners in a rising rate environment and a buffer because KBWD also features ample exposure to mortgage REITs, which have shown vulnerability to rising rates.

Higher interest rates diminish the chances that homeowners will refinance their mortgage rates. Consequently, the securities have declined in value to reflect the rising risk of holding high duration bonds over a longer period. Many mortgage REITs did not anticipate the sharp spike in interest rates and the result was a spate of 2013 dividend reductions from mREITs. [mREIT ETF Dividends Survive]

KBWD is up 4.2% over the past year while some mREIT ETFs are down about 20%. The ETF tracks the KBW Financial Sector Dividend Yield Index, which also allows for the inclusion of high-yielding business development companies (BDCs).

Investors poured over $4 billion into publicly traded BDC’s last year, betting on an expanding economy, which will support earnings for companies that are most vulnerable to default, while generating some attractive yields. [BDC ETFs Rise as Investors Hunt for Yield]

KBWD has attracted almost $33.2 million in new investments over the 12-month period ending Jan. 21, according to PowerShares data.

PowerShares KBW High Dividend Yield Financial Portfolio

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