A Steady Switzerland ETF Soars

ETF Trends

Swiss equities were among Europe’s first to rebound due to the country’s reputation as being a more conservative investment destination than say, Italy or Spain, and because Switzerland is not a member of the Eurozone.

Over the past two years, the iShares MSCI Switzerland Capped ETF (EWL) , the largest Switzerland ETF, is up more than 48%. Indeed, the $1.1 billion EWL is defensively positioned with health care and consumer staples names combining for half the ETF’s weight. With those sectors looming large in Switzerland, it is not surprising EWL and Swiss stocks have been less volatile than broader European benchmarks over the years. [Switzerland ETFs Take Defensive Approach]

Investors looking for exposure to Swiss equities via ETFs can and should consider EWL. They should also consider the First Trust Switzerland AlphaDEX Fund (FSZ) . FSZ is just over two years old and since debuting in February 2012, the ETF has surged 41%. There are significant differences between the two ETFs, namely that EWL is a cap-weighted fund, while FSZ qualifies as smart beta ETF.

Like the other AlphaDEX ETFs from First Trust, FSZ is comprise of stocks that are ranked by a variety of growth and value factors including price appreciation value to price, cash flow to price and return on assets. Notably, First Trust has had success applying the AlphaDEX methodology to Europe ETFs as the First Trust Europe AlphaDEX Fund (FEP) is up 30.1% in the past 12 months. [Smart Beta ETF for Europe]

Some professional investors see opportunity ahead with the $36.9 million FSZ.

“FSZ seems to me a more interesting way to play Switzerland,” Bartlomiej Fraszczyk, portfolio manager at Generation Systematic Solutions told ETF Trends. “FSZ is a much better, diversified portfolio, providing investors with an overlay of attractive stocks.”

While FSZ does not skimp on health care and staples stocks with those sectors combining for almost 21% of the ETF’s weight, the ETF devotes almost 34% of its weight to financials. That not only fits with Switzerland’s reputation as a global banking hub, but could benefit investors because Swiss banks are expected to boost dividends this year. [European Banks Seen Lifting Payouts]

Investors will pay up for FSZ as the ETF sports an annual expense ratio of 0.8% compared to 0.51% on EWL. The important consideration is that, on valuation, FSZ’s portfolio is less expensive than EWL, noteworthy given that Swiss equities are pricier relative to peripheral Europe markets. FSZ’s price-to-book ratio is 1.76 compared to three for EWL, according to First Trust data.

Fraszczyk sees growth ahead for FSZ.

“In my opinion, FSZ is a product for more sophisticated investors that want to detach from the passive EWL,” he said. “I believe FSZ may soon hit $50 million (in assets) or $100 million within in a year. If you allocate to Europe or Switzerland, I believe FSZ should at least be your satellite position.” [Single-Country ETFs Gain Popularity]

First Trust Switzerland AlphaDEX Fund

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