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These smart-beta ETFs survive market volatility

The ‘smart beta’ craze has embraced the ETF world. With plain vanilla ETFs or market-cap oriented ETFs and specific sector ETFs losing their charm, issuers are coming up with innovative and smart-beta approaches every now and then.

The love for smart beta products can be felt from Nasdaq OMX Group Inc.’s recent buyout deal with private investment advisory firm – Dorsey, Wright & Associates (DWA). The latter is known for smart-beta models. In fact, in a bid to be the top smart beta index provider, Nasdaq probably chalked out this purchase plan.

Morningstar estimates that 59% of new investor money in ETFs has so far been absorbed by smart-beta ETFs since Jan 2013. Per Bloomberg, in 2014, around one-fifth of the ETF industry was occupied by smart-beta products. By now, investors are quite familiar with what the smart-beta concept actually is. As the name suggests, this approach calls for a strategic procedure other than a plain vanilla market-cap oriented method of portfolio construction.

Below we have highlighted three ‘Smart Beta’ options that outperformed the broader U.S. market ETF SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) which added just 1.32% so far this year (as of March 30, 2015) and 0.3% in the last ten trading sessions. These ETFs could be in watch in the days to come too.

iShares MSCI EAFE Minimum Volatility ETF (EFAV)

With volatility rising from Fed-related speculations, global growth worries and geo-political concerns emanating related to  the Saudi attack on Yemen, low volatility ETFs are gaining traction lately. EFAV looks to replicate the performance of international equity securities that have lower absolute volatility. This equal-weighted ETF invests about $2.06 billion in 198 holdings.

No single stock makes up more than 2.14% of the portfolio. Country wise, the fund appears more focused on Japan and United Kingdom equities, with the duo having a little less than 50% allocation in the fund. The fund charges about 20 bps in fees. EFAV was up 8.6% so far this year (as of March 30, 2015) and about 3% in the last ten trading sessions. The fund currently carries a Zacks ETF Rank #3 (Hold) with a Low risk outlook.

International Hedged Dividend Growth Fund (IHDG)

Global easing has bolstered the appeal for dividend ETFs since the start of the year. The U.S. economy is presently sporting a low-rate environment. The ECB has launched a QE program with negative interest rates in place. Japan has long been pursuing the QE program with zero interest rates and several other economies, be it in Europe or Asia, have jumped on the bandwagon of policy easing.

In such a scenario, it can be an excellent idea to focus on dividends. Among dividend-oriented ETFs, investing in companies that have a strong history of growing dividends seems a better idea than those which hand out the largest payouts or offer largest yields.
IHDG follows the WisdomTree International Hedged Dividend Growth Index. This benchmark consists of about 300 companies that have a market cap of at least $1 billion. This $205 million-ETF is heavy on the United Kingdom (18.97%), Switzerland (12.50%) and Germany (12.37%).

Consumer staples rule the fund with 21% exposure trailed by consumer discretionary (19.6%), healthcare (16.54%) and industrials (16.50%). The fund is up 11% so far this year (as of March 30, 2015) and added more than 0.7% in the last ten trading sessions. It has a Zacks ETF Rank #2 (Buy).

RevenueShares Global Growth Fund (RGRO)

This new ETF looks to track the S&P Global Broad Market Index. The benchmark first identifies top five developed and top five emerging markets with the highest year-over-year GDP growth in the two most recent quarters.  Amid worldwide volatility, what else could be a better measure than a fundamental criterion like GDP growth?

This $5.2 million-ETF charges 70 bps in fees.  Europe takes 40% of the fund’s exposure followed by Latin America (19%) and the Asia Pacific (18%). As much as 75% stocks in the fund are large caps. The fund added about 1.1% in the last ten trading sessions (as of March 30, 2015).
 
SPDR-SP 500 TR (SPY): ETF Research Reports
ISHARS-MS EMVIF (EFAV): ETF Research Reports
WISDMTR-INT HDG (IHDG): ETF Research Reports
REVENU-GLBL GR (RGRO): ETF Research Reports
 
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