Interest in dividend-paying stocks has surged over the past several years with this asset sub-class emerging as a popular choice for those looking to bolster income and smooth overall volatility. Given the current environment, it shouldn't be surprising that there has also been a surge in the number of dividend-focused ETFs; there are more than 50 exchange-traded products that target dividend-paying stocks in one way or another, whether by replicating a dividend-weighted index, including only the most consistent of dividend payers, or using other screening criteria. The yields on dividend ETFs, however, are all over the board; some deliver payouts that are roughly in line with broad equity markets, while others collect higher yielding stocks with the goal of delivering a more substantial current return potential. Neither of these objectives is necessarily superior to the other. Focusing on consistent dividend payers will generally lower overall volatility, and will potentially narrow in on stocks positioned to deliver stellar long-term returns.

On the other hand, high-yielding stocks have the potential to deliver meaningful current returns in a low rate environment. Below, we profile several ETFs that offer up yields in excess of 5% :

  1. SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF (DWX)

This ETF is linked to an index that consists of 100 global stocks that offer high-dividend yields. With no allocation to U.S. stocks, DWX instead affords big weightings to Europe (about 70% of the portfolio) and Australia. While there is some exposure to emerging markets in this ETF, it is developed economies that make up the bulk of holdings. From a sector perspective, this fund is heavy in traditional dividend-paying corners of the economy;telecoms receive a big allocation as do utilities and financials.

DWX recently had a dividend yield of about 7.3% and a 30-day SEC yield of about 6.8%. The underlying index has a price-to-cash flow ratio of only about 4.2x, suggesting that there is considerable upside that comes with this somewhat risky investment.

  1. SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend ETF (EDIV)

This ETF follows an index that holds dividend-paying securities of publicly-traded companies in emerging markets. Europe, Latin Americaand Asia hold about 30% of the portfolio each, with a minority holding in Africa. Brazilian stocks represent about 23% of the portfolio, followed by quasi-developed Taiwan (14%), Turkey (9%) and South Africa (9%). There is some exposure to the quasi-developed markets of Taiwan and South Korea, which combine to make up about 20% of the portfolio. From a sector perspective, EDIV is reasonably balanced; financials, materials, telecoms, utilities and energy stocks each make up between 14% and 21% of assets.

About half of the companies involved are large cap and a quarter are medium cap; the final quarter of the holdings is split between giant and micro caps.

EDIV's most recent 30-day SEC yield was about 6.8%, and its currentdividend yield is about 5.2%. The index this ETF follows has a price-to-cash flow of just 5.1x, a rather attractive ratio.

  1. DJ Global Select Dividend Index Fund (FGD)

FGD tracks an index that includes 100 dividend-yielding stocks selected from the developed market portion of the Dow Jones World Index. Half of this ETF is made up of European holdings, but the largest country holdings are Australia (17%), the United States (15%) and the United Kingdom (13%). This fund has the most holdings in communications (21%), utilities (16%) and financials (15%), with some minority exposure to technology and healthcare.

This ETF's current 30-day SEC yield was about 5.7%, while its annual dividend yield is about 5%. The index FGD follows has a current price- to-cash flow ratio of about 5.3x.

  1. KBW High Dividend Yield Financial Portfolio (KBWD)

This ETF tracks an index that is constructed using a dividend yield weighted methodology to reflect the performance of 24 to 40 U.S. companies that are primarily involved in financial services and products. Half of the holdings are in the real estate sector and the other half are in the financial services sector. None of these companies are giant market cap corporations; instead this ETF is invested in small (41%), medium (32%) and micro (22%) market cap companies.

KBW's current 30-day SEC yield was about 8.6%, while its annual distribution yield is about 7.8%. The index KBWD follows has a current price-to-earnings ratio of 9.4x.

  1. SuperDividend ETF (SDIV)

SDIV is modeled after an index that tracks the performance of 100 equally weighted companies from around the world that currently have the highest yielding dividends. The United States represents only about one-third of these funds; the other countries represented include Australia (24%), the United Kingdom (7%) and Singapore (6%). As for sectors, a quarter of the companies are in real estate, with other major holdings in financials (19%) and communications (17%), there are also minor holdings in technology (3%), healthcare (2%) and basic materials (1%).

This ETF's current 30-day SEC yield and 12-month dividend yield were the same, with both at 7.8% to date. The index SDIV follows has an average annualized performance of 2.16% compared to SDIV, which has more than double that.

  1. S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index ETF (LVL)

LVL follows an index that consists of 100 common stocks, MLPs and ADRs with market caps greater than $1.5 billion that also pay out substantial dividends. U.S. companies account for only about 15% of this ETF's assets, with about half of the assets in Europemostly France and the United Kingdom.A quarter of these funds belong to the communications sector, with other major holdings in industrials (12%), consumer cyclical (11%), real estate and energy (each 10%).

KBW's current 30-day SEC yield was about 7.9% with an annual dividend yield of about 6.7%.

  1. STOXX European Select Dividend Index Fund (FDD)

This ETF tracks a dividend-weighted index of 30 European based companies. Financial services account for about one-third of the portfolio with communications taking up another quarter; the rest of the portfolio is made up of smaller holdings in sectors such asutilities(16%), industrials (9%) and healthcare (7%). The United Kingdom is the largest country represented (45%) followed by France (12%), Germany (12%) and Switzerland (9%).

FDD's current 30-day SEC yield is about 6.8% with an annual distribution of about 6%. The index FDD follows has a current price-to-cash flow of about 5.5x.

  1. ABC High Dividend ETF (ABCS)

This ETF follows an index that contains the top 30 dividend-yielding stocks and ADRs of companies from Australia and Brazil, and locally listed companies in Australia and Canada. More than half the portfolio is devoted to Brazil, leaving about a quarter of the portfolio each to Canada and Australia. Not surprisingly, energy stocks are well represented in this ETF; it holds stocks from some oil rich economies. Energy stocks make up about 25% of total assets; the other majority sectors include basic materials (17%) and utilities (14%), with no representation from real estate or healthcare.

This ETF's most recent 30-day SEC yield and annual dividend yield were both about 5.5%. The index this ETF follows has a price-to-cash flow ratio of just 4.3x.

Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.

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