No one can argue that European equities have had a tumultuous ride over the last couple of years, as the eurozone sovereign-debt crisis continues to plague the region. Although the European Central Bank detailed its most aggressive plan to date to deal with the eurozone's mounting debt piles last month, investors still remain understandably weary of this corner of the market. And since many economies in the region continue to teeter on the edge of default (or forced bailouts), investors will likely wait until more concrete developments are made before diving back into this once steady and rewarding sector . Amidst the seemingly never-ending eurozone drama, however, there have been some surprising bright spots in the space: Europe Dividend ETFs. These products have managed to maintain their footing, while at the same time provide investors with relatively handsome dividend yields. Currently, there are only two funds whose sole objective is to target dividend-paying companies from Europe. And while these two ETFs focus on the same geographical region, their methodologies, portfolio composition and resulting dividend yields are noticeably different.
STOXX European Select Dividend Index Fund (FDD)
This offering from First Trust offers investors exposure to 30 of the highest-dividend yielding stocks from roughly 18 different European countries. Considering that FDD's underlying index is dividend-weighted, it is perhaps not surprising to find nearly 45% of the fund's total assets allocated to the its top 10 securities, making the 30-stock portfolio rather top-heavy along and relatively shallow. Although FDD's portfolio composition might deter some investors, its ability to deliver juicy yields to its investors may prompt some to give this fund a closer look. Currently, FDD's annual dividend yield is 4.98%, the highest among the Europe-specific dividend ETFs .
Taking a closer look at FDD's portfolio reveals that holdings are roughly equally split between giant, large and mid-cap stocks. The majority of assets are allocated to the financial and communication services sectors, while utilities and industrials also make up a hefty chunk of FDD's portfolio. In regards to specific country allocations, stocks from the United Kingdom account for nearly 45% of total assets, but heavy weightings are also given to France, Germany and Switzerland.
Europe SmallCap Dividend Fund (DFE)
WisdomTree's DFE allows investors to make more of a pure play on the European economy, while at the same time maintaining relatively high dividend yields. DFE invests in small cap European stocks, an asset class that is often overlooked by most Euro-focused ETFs. Because their performance is generally more closely tied to local consumption, small caps often allow investors to gain better access to the local economies of the region. The methodology behind DFE's underlying index involves selecting the bottom 25% of the market capitalization of the WisdomTree Europe Dividend Index after the 300 largest companies have been removed. Companies are then weighted in the index based on annual cash dividends paid.
The resulting portfolio contains over 300 individual securities, with only about 13% of total assets lying in the top ten holdings. DFE is heavily tilted towards industrials, which make up over a quarter of the portfolio. Significant allocations are also made to consumer cyclical, technology and financial services sectors. Top country weightings include the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Sweden. Currently, DFE's annual dividend yield comes in at 3.65% .
Follow me on Twitter@DPylypczak
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.