There are about 100 dividend-oriented exchange-traded products (funds and notes) available to clients now, and more are coming.
The reason is simple: In a low-yield world, dividends are a popular way for clients and their advisors to produce income.
Morningstar estimates that ETPs that use dividends to either screen or weight portfolios have attracted more than $100 billion in assets in the United States over the past decade.
Here are some recent additions to the increasingly crowded field.
WidsomTree Japan Dividend Growth Fund may sound like something you have heard about before, but the fund differs from the same company’s Japan Hedged Dividend Growth Fund in that it includes exposure to currency changes.
The yen has been weak against the dollar, and if that trend continues, U.S. investors will see diminished returns from Japan Dividend Growth. If the yen strengthens against the dollar, the fund should do better than a hedged portfolio of Japanese stocks.
Of course, investors in Japan Hedged Dividend Growth are counting on that hedging to work as advertised. The funds have a policy common to all WisdomTree dividend ETFs: Holdings must pay a dividend, but the “growth” in their names refers to earnings growth, not necessarily dividend growth.
ProShares has added two funds that require actual growth in dividends to qualify for inclusion. Even better for dividend fans, they track market capitalization segments that have, until now, been ignored by dividend growth ETFs.
The ProShares S&P MidCap 400 Dividend Aristocrats fund includes stocks in Standard & Poor’s midcap index that have increased dividends annually for at least 15 years. It is worth noting that the large-cap Aristocrats indexes require longer records of increases.
A second offering from the company tracks the small-cap dividend space. The ProShares Russell 2000 Dividend Growers fund follows the Russell 2000 Dividend Growth Index.
The index on which the fund is based requires at least 10 years of dividend increases.
Last year, QuantShares brought its Hedged Dividend Income Fund to market. The ETF’s underlying index consists of long positions in 100 stocks with stable or growing dividends and short positions in up to 200 issues (up to 50% of the value of its long positions) with unstable or low dividends.
Although such a strategy could work well, long/short portfolios often underperform in bull markets.
What’s more, shorting can be expensive. The fund must borrow the shares to short and pay dividends on those shares, as well as interest and brokerage fees.
The estimated cost of shorting: 0.65%, or more than the fund’s 0.50% management fee. A fee waiver limiting total expenses to 0.99% was in place through Oct. 31.
In late 2014, Reality Shares DIVS ETF went public. Despite the abbreviation DIVS in its name, the fund doesn’t own equities that pay dividends.
The ETF uses options in a strategy called a “jelly roll” to isolate the net dividend value of stocks. If dividends increase more than the market expects, the fund profits.
Fans of options strategies may like this portfolio, but it isn’t suitable for dividend investors.
If income-seeking clients ask about it, direct them to this line from the prospectus: “The fund does not produce dividend income and is not an appropriate investment if you are seeking dividend income.”
Joseph Lisanti, a Financial Planning contributing writer in New York, is a former editor-in-chief of Standard & Poor’s weekly investment advisory newsletter, The Outlook.
This story is part of a 30-30 series on smart ETF strategies. It was originally published on June 8, 2015.
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