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A Combination ETF Right for the Times


Two of the more prominent themes in the world of exchange traded this year have been the ongoing success of dividend funds and the extension of last year’s success for currency hedged ETFs.

Imagine the possibilities when those two themes meet under the umbrella of a single ETF as they do in the newly minted WisdomTree International Hedged Dividend Growth Fund (IHDG) . IHDG, which carries an annual expense ratio of 0.58%, tracks the WisdomTree International Hedged Dividend Growth Index (WTIDGH).

That index is an offshoot of the WisdomTree DEFA Index, the benchmark for the nearly $590 million WisdomTree DEFA Fund (DWM) . [WisdomTree Debuts Two Dividend Growth ETFs]

“The Index is comprised of the top 300 companies from the WisdomTree DEFA Index with the best combined rank of growth and quality factors. The growth factor ranking is based on long-term earnings growth expectations, while the quality factor ranking is based on three year historical averages for return on equity and return on assets. Companies are weighted in the Index based on annual cash dividends paid,” according to WisdomTree.

In other words, IHDG can be looked as a dividend focused, currency hedged competitor to the scores of funds that benchmark to the MSCI EAFE Index. Thing is, IHDG is down just 0.3% since coming to market in early May, but the iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA) is off 5.6% over the same period.

That is not surprising when considering the tendency of dividend stocks to outperform their non-dividend paying counterparts. Over time, dividend growers handsomely outperform those stocks that o not boost or deliver payouts.

Importantly, it has been documented that by removing currency risk from the equation, investors are subjected to a less volatile experience with foreign stocks and ETFs. With the dollar currently strong against the Australian dollar, Japanese yen and euro, investors could experience unnecessary currency and added volatility by considering ETFs that are not currency hedged. [Time has Arrived for Currency Hedged ETFs]

IHDG’s strong dollar exposure looks likes this: A 19.6% weight to the U.K., home to British pound and where interest rate hikes may not come as early as previously expected. That is followed by a combined weight of 31% to Eurozone nations and an almost 13% weight to Switzerland, which pegs its franc to the weakening euro. [Euro Hedged ETF is Winning]

Then there is the combined 16.5% weight to Australia and Japan, two countries that are home to accomodative central banks with no signs of higher interest rates on the horizon.

IHDG’s Australia exposure is significant on the dividend growth front because payouts there doubled last from 2012 levels. The U.K., the ETF’s largest country weight, is the largest developed world dividend payer after the U.S. while Switzerland’s market tilt toward consumer staples and health care firms ensures steady, growing dividends.

WisdomTree International Hedged Dividend Growth Fund


Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of EFA.