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Fun With Finland ETFs

If one considers fun in the financial markets making money, and why would that not be the case, then oft-overlooked Finland has delivered for investors in 2015.

The iShares MSCI Finland Capped ETF (EFNL) , the lone U.S.-listed exchange traded fund dedicated to stocks in the Nordic, is up 7.1% this year. That performance may be more early than late innings. EFNL has outpaced such Europe ETF luminaries as the iShares MSCI France ETF (EWQ) and the iShares MSCI Spain Capped ETF (EWP).

Earlier this month, Finland became the first Eurozone nation to auction five-year bonds at a negative yield and yields on the country’s 10-year bonds are just 0.52%. However, those statistics do not mean Finland is a market bereft of yield.

Finland is proving to be a credible participant in the ongoing recovery in European dividend growth. “Half of the companies listed on the Helsinki stock exchange that have so far announced their dividend proposals for 2014 plan to raise them — four times as many as those reducing returns to shareholders,” reports Kasper Viita for Bloomberg.

Kesko Oyj and Wartsila Oyj are among the Finnish firms that have boosted payouts this year. Those stocks combine for over 6% of EFNL’s weight. The ETF has a trailing 12-month yield of 3.27%, or 115 basis points higher than the comparable yield on the iShares MSCI Germany ETF (EWG) . [Investors Rush to Germany ETFs]

EFNL is often ignored among single-country Europe ETFs because of its size ($18.7 million in assets under management) and light volume. However, iShares is working to bolster EFNL’s liquidity. In January, the issuer announced it is participating in BATS and NYSE Arca incentives programs aimed improving liquidity and capital levels in new and smaller ETFs. [iShares Boosts Liquidity in Smaller ETFs]

Embracing Finnish stocks is not a risk-free bet. The country’s economy has contracted for three straight years and sharing a border with Russia is problematic. With that proximity, Russia has previously been a major source of foreign direct investment to Finland, but as the Russian economy has struggled, its inflows to Finland have turned to capital departures.

For investors wanting solid exposure to Finnish stocks, but not the full commitment of an ETF like EFNL, traditional diversified Europe ETFs typically have not been good places to look. That changed earlier this week with the debut of the WisdomTree Europe Hedged SmallCap Equity Fund (EUSC) .

EUSC, the small-cap answer to the wildly popular WisdomTree Europe Hedged Equity Fund (HEDJ), this year’s top-asset gathering exchange traded fund by a wide margin, has a 13.8% weight to Finnish stocks. That makes Finland the new ETF’s fourth-largest country weight with an allocation nearly 400 basis points larger than that afforded to Spanish stocks. [HEDJ Gets a Small-Cap Cousin]

iShares MSCI Finland Capped ETF