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A Popular Dividend Strategy in an International Wrapper

This article was originally published on ETFTrends.com.

Dividend investors looking to add some international income to their portfolios have plenty of exchange traded funds to consider. Those also looking for a low-fee idea can consider the Vanguard International Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIGI).

VIGI, which debuted in March 2016, is the international answer to the popular Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSEArca: VIG ) , the largest U.S. dividend ETF. VIGI has rapidly gained a following with investors. In just over two years on the market, VIGI had $915.5 million in assets under management as of the end of the second quarter.

“This low-cost fund prioritizes dividend growth over yield, which emphasizes highly profitable firms that should hold up better than most during market downturns and offer attractive long-term returns,” said Morningstar in a recent note.

Ex-U.S. developed market dividend payers often feature larger yields than their U.S. counterparts, an assertion proven by comparing large- and mega-cap dividend stocks from familiar dividend sectors such as consumer staples, energy, financial services and telecommunications.

Exploring VIGI

“The fund invests in large- and mid-cap stocks from developed and emerging markets, and targets those that have increased their dividend payments for seven consecutive years,” said Morningstar. “It then applies additional filters to eliminate stocks that may not be able to sustain their dividend growth.”

VIGI holds 314 stocks with a median market capitalization of $44.5 billion. Nearly 27% of the fund's geographic exposure is allocated to developing economies and nearly 49% is dedicated to European equities, giving the ETF a value profile. India, the U.K. and Japan are VIGI's three largest geographic exposures, combing for 36% of the fund's weight.

VIGI's annual fee is 0.25%, or $25 on a $10,000 investment, which makes the Vanguard fund cheaper than 75% of competing strategies, according to issuer data.

“This fund’s focus on dividend growth makes it significantly different from those that emphasize dividend yield,” said Morningstar. “A narrow focus on yield brings about certain risks because high yields can be an indicator of firms that may be in financial distress or have poor forward-looking prospects. These stocks trade at lower prices relative to dividends paid and can be risky. Other high-yielding stocks may be paying out a large fraction of their earnings. These companies may be at risk of cutting their dividends because increasing payments in the future is unsustainable.”

Morningstar has a Bronze rating on VIGI, a rating driven in part by the fund's still short track record.

For more on smart beta ETFs, visit our Smart Beta Channel.

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