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Alternative Europe ETF Comes of Age


Europe exchange traded funds have been in focus throughout much of this year as the regions rebounding economy and actions by the European Central Bank have propped up equities there.

One of the results in the U.S. has been rapid asset growth by Europe ETFs. Two – the Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF (VGK) and the iShares MSCI EMU ETF (EZU) – are among the top-10 asset-gathering ETFs of any type this year. The WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (HEDJ) has nearly doubled in size since crossing the $1 billion in assets under management mark in April. [Hedged Europe ETF Reaches $1B in AUM]

The First Trust Europe AlphaDEX Fund (FEP) has been an impressive performer and asset gatherer in its own right.

FEP “uses both growth and value fundamentals to score and weight its portfolio. FEP took in $450 million, about doubling its size to just under $1 billion,” writes Eric Balchunas for Bloomberg.

That was the work put in by FEP in the first half of 2014. Up 7.3% year-to-date, FEP has been buoyed by the improving U.K. economy and investors’ affinity for British equities. The U.K. is 23.2% of FEP’s weight, nearly 900 basis points more than is allocated to Italy, the ETF’s second-largest country weight.

The exposure to the U.K. is important because it is widely expected the Bank of England will raise interest rates in the coming months. Assuming markets are efficient and that news has been priced into British stocks, FEP should prove too vulnerable. However, the fund is down 1.7% over the past month.

Still, FEP is heavily allocated to interest rate nations. Six of the ETF’s top-10 country weights are Eurozone members and Sweden is FEP’s fourth-largest country weight at 9.3%. The Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, recently lowered rates to 0.25% from 0.75%. Most economists expected a cut to 0.5%.

FEP is a smart beta fund as the ETF’s 202 holdings are selected based “on growth factors including 3-, 6- and 12-month price appreciation, sales to price and one year sales growth, and separately on value factors including book value to price, cash flow to price and return on assets,” according to First Trust. [Unheralded Europe ETF Idea]

Alternative indexing has been advantage this year for several such Europe ETFs, including FEP. The First Trust offering has topped VGK, the largest Europe ETF, by 170 basis points. [Smart Beta Europe ETFs are Winning]

Some of that advantage can be tied to FEP’s holdings having a median market value of just under $7.2 billion. FEP market-cap weights include mid-caps 24.8%, large-caps 24.2% and mega-caps 9.1%.

First Trust Europe AlphaDEX Fund


Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of HEDJ.