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Guide to Dividend Aristocrat ETFs

Sweta Killa

In the current ultra-low rate environment and amid heightened global uncertainty, investors have become defensive and are seeking safe and stable investments.

Dividend-focused products offer both safety in the form of payouts and stability in the form of mature companies that are less volatile to the large swings in stock prices. The dividend paying securities are the major sources of consistent income for investors when returns from equity markets are at risk. Further, these products have proven outperformers over the long term  (read: Dividend ETFs Explained: What Investors Need to Know).

While there are plenty of options in the dividend ETF world, honing in on the ‘dividend aristocrats’ could be the most beneficial way to ride out the current market volatility resulting from geopolitical worries. Further, the yields on government bonds have fallen to lower levels despite the Fed scaling back its stimulus. The lower yields have compelled investors to look for other cash generating streams.   

Why Dividend Aristocrats?

Dividend Aristocrats are the blue-chip dividend-paying companies, which have a long history of raising dividend payments year over year. These generally act as a hedge against economic uncertainty and provide downside protection by offering outsized payouts or sizable yields on a regular basis. Additionally, aristocrats tend to skew the portfolio to less volatile sectors and mature companies (see: all Large Cap ETFs here).

Investors should note that the dividend aristocrat funds offer more dividend growth opportunities when compared to other products in the space but might not necessarily have the highest yields.

As a result, these products provide a nice combination of annual dividend growth and capital appreciation opportunity and are mainly suitable for risk adverse long-term investors. For them, we have highlighted some ETFs that could be excellent choices irrespective of stock market directions.

SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY)

This is one of the popular and liquid ETF in the dividend space with AUM of over $12.8 billion and average daily volume of more than 576,000 shares. This fund provides exposure to the 97 U.S. stocks that have been consistently increasing their dividends every year for at least 25 years. This can be done by tracking the S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index (read: Safe Haven ETFs to Evade Geopolitical Tensions).

The product is widely spread out across number securities as none holds more than 2.70% of total assets. Though the fund is slightly skewed toward the financial sector with 21.8%, consumer staples, industrials, materials and utilities make up for a nice mix in the portfolio with double-digit allocations. The fund charges 35 bps in fees per year and yields 2.27% in 30-day SEC. It has added 6.2% so far this year and has a Zacks ETF Rank of 2 or ‘Buy’ rating with a Medium risk outlook.

ProShares S&P 500 Aristocrats ETF (NOBL)

This fund has been newly launched in the space and has amassed an impressive $235.3 million in its asset base in just less than a year. Expense ratio is 0.35% while average daily volume is moderate at 55,000 shares. The product provides exposure to the companies that raised dividend payments annually for at least 25 years by tracking the S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats.

The fund is widely diversified across various securities as each account for less than 2.4% share. From a sector look, about one-fourth of the portfolio is dominated by consumer staples, followed by industrials (15%), consumer discretionary (13%), materials (13%) and healthcare (13%). NOBL is up 5.8% and has 30-day SEC yield of 1.97%. The fund has a Zacks ETF Rank of 2 with a Low risk outlook (read: 3 Low-Risk ETFs Beating SPY This Year).

Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)

This is the largest and most popular ETF in the dividend space with AUM of $20.1 billion and average daily volume of about 785,000 shares. The fund follows the NASDAQ US Dividend Achievers Select Index, which is composed of high quality stocks that have a record of increasing dividends over the past decade. It holds 163 securities in the basket.

Here again, the fund has diverse exposure across securities with each holding no more than 4.3% of total assets. However, it has a definite tilt toward industrial at 23.2% while consumer goods and consumer services round off the top three. The ETF charges 10 bps in annual fees while its 30-day SEC yield comes at 2.07%. The fund has added about 4% in the year-to-date time frame and has a Zacks ETF Rank of 2 with a Medium risk outlook.

SPDR S&P Global Dividend ETF (WDIV)

For investors seeking global exposure, WDIV seems an intriguing pick. This fund follows the S&P Global Dividend Aristocrats Index, which measures the performance of the companies that have raised dividends for at least 10 years consecutively. The product is unpopular having amassed $27.3 million in AUM and charges quite a high annual fee of 40 bps. Volume is light under 3,000 shares a day on average (read: 3 Unbeatable Dividend ETF All-Stars for Your Portfolio).

Holding 101 stocks, WDIV also provides a nice balance across each component with none holding more than 1.7% share. Financials and utilities take the top two spots at 25% each, while industrials and consumer staples make up for next two spots with 10% share each. The fund has gained 7.7% so far this year and has a Zacks ETF Rank of 3 or ‘Hold’ rating with Low risk outlook. The 30-day SEC yield is higher at 3.97% compared to the other three above-mentioned products.

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