With interest rates in the United States and other primary developed economies still at excessively low levels, many investors looking to diversify their portfolios internationally seek the added benefit of higher dividend yields available abroad. There are a number of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) available in the category of international equity funds that offer dividend yields in excess of 5%. Investors can choose from broad-exposure international ETFs to more geographically focused funds such as Asia-Pacific or Europe ETFs, and they can choose between funds that include or exclude U.S.-based equities.
The following is an overview of five of the highest dividend-yielding international equity ETFs as of March 2016.
Global X SuperDividend ETF
Global X launched the Global X SuperDividend ETF (NYSEARCA: SDIV) in 2011 to offer investors exposure to the highest-yielding global equities. This widely held ETF, with $754.7 million in total assets under management (AUM), aims to hold the highest-yield stocks available internationally, without regard to market sector or country. It tracks the Solactive Global SuperDividend Index, which is composed of 100 equal-weighted, global high-dividend yield securities, selected based on yield and screened to meet liquidity and financial stability standards. The fund is ordinarily 80% or more invested in the equities contained in the underlying index, or in American Depositary Receipts (ADR) or Global Depositary Receipts (GDR) that represent those equities.
The top three countries represented in the portfolio are the U.S., Australia and the United Kingdom. Financial sector stocks, including real estate, make up the bulk of the portfolio, accounting for 57.08% of the portfolio assets. The fund's top holdings include Banco do Brasil SA (Sao Paolo: BBAS3.SA), oil and gas firm ONEOK, Inc. (NYSE: OKE), and Australian consulting company WorleyParsons Ltd. (ASX: WOR.AX). The expense ratio for this ETF is 0.58%, which is higher than the global stock category average of 0.45%. The three-year average annualized return is 1.95%, meaning it underperforms compared to the category average of 3.9%. The fund's dividend yield is 7.83%.
Guggenheim S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index ETF
Guggenheim launched the Guggenheim S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index ETF (NYSEARCA: LVL) in 2007, with the stated investment goal of offering both income and growth potential opportunity by investing in high-growth-potential global equities that have historically offered superior dividend yields. The fund invests its $51.29 million in assets to track the S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index, a yield-weighted index that is made up of the 100 highest dividend-yielding stocks contained in the S&P Global BMI index, which is designed to reflect the overall global stock markets performance, including both developed and emerging market economies.
Australian equities account for 20.8% of the portfolio, followed by the U.S. at 17.71% and the U.K. at 14.75%. Energy stocks dominate, making up 21.94% of portfolio assets. The top three holdings are Targa Resources Corporation (NYSE: TRGP), Crescent Point Energy Corporation (TSX: CPG) and CenturyLink, Inc. (NASDAQ: CTL). The expense ratio is 0.65%, and the dividend yield is 6.31%. The five-year average annualized return for the fund is negative 3.23%, which is substantially lower than the world stock category average, a positive return of 4.45%.
SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF
The SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA: DWX) was launched by State Street Global Advisors in 2008, and has attracted $825.4 million in assets under management (AUM). This ETF tracks the S&P International Dividend Opportunities Index, an index composed of the top 100 highest dividend-yield stocks of companies headquartered outside the U.S. that meet minimum liquidity and financial stability standards.
Australia and the U.K. are the most heavily represented countries, making up 25.3 and 17.6% of the portfolio assets, respectively. Utility, financial and energy stocks combine to provide more than half of the fund's holdings. Top portfolio holdings are Crescent Point Energy, resort developer Sands China Ltd. (OTC: SCHYF) and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (ASX: WPL.AX). The fund's expense ratio is 0.45%, which is in line with the category average of 0.48%. The five-year average return is negative 3.29%, meaning it underperforms compared to the foreign large-value ETF category average of 0.84%. The dividend yield for the SPDR S&P International Dividend ETF is 6.11%.
iShares Asia/Pacific Dividend ETF
Investors seeking exposure to the important Asia-Pacific region may wish to consider BlackRock's iShares Asia/Pacific Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA: DVYA), which offers a dividend yield of 5.6%. The fund is relatively new, having been launched in 2012. It has $31.97 million in assets. This ETF tracks the dividend-weighted Dow Jones Asia/Pacific Select Dividend 30 Index, which is composed of just 30 equities that are selected based on high yield, growth potential, consistent performance and sustainability. The fund is typically 90% or more invested in the securities that make up the index or in other investments with characteristics similar to securities contained in the index.
Australia accounts for 55% of the portfolio's assets. Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore are also all substantially represented in the portfolio's holdings. Financial services and communication services are the two most heavily represented market sectors, each accounting for a bit more than 20% of the total portfolio. The top three holdings for this ETF are the engineering firm Monadelphous Group Ltd. (ASX: MND.AX), Mineral Resources Ltd. (ASX: MIN.AX) and Hong Kong-based apparel retailer Giordano International Ltd. (HKSE: 0709.HK). The fund's five-year average annualized return is negative 4.94%, faring significantly worse than the diversified Asia-Pacific category average of negative 1.08%. The expense ratio is 0.49%, nearly twice the category average 0.26%.
iShares International Select Dividend ETF
BlackRock also offers the broader-based iShares International Select Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA: IDV), which it launched in 2007. This ETF has total assets of $2.59 billion, making it one of the 10 most widely held foreign large-cap equity ETFs. This fund, which offers a 5.41% dividend yield, tracks the Dow Jones EPAC Select Dividend Index, composed of 100 high-dividend yield stocks traded primarily on exchanges in non-U.S. developed markets.
Australian equities make up 29.8% of the portfolio, followed by U.K. stocks at 20.07%. France and Finland each accounts for approximately 7% of the total portfolio. Financial sector stocks garner the largest share of assets, accounting for 22.53% of the total portfolio. The top holdings in the portfolio are the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA.AX), Woodside Petroleum (ASX: WPL.AX), and major U.K. pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca PLC (LSE: AZN). The expense ratio for the iShares International Select Dividend ETF is 0.5%, just above the category average 0.48%, The fund's five-year average annualized return is 2.46%, outperforming by more than double the foreign large-value fund category average of 0.84%.