International stocks are being widely embraced by U.S. investors this year, a theme evident in the massive inflows to exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking developed and emerging markets equities. Investors that cannot make up their minds between developed and developing markets or simply like the idea of both asset classes under the umbrella of one ETF have some options to consider. One of the better mixed ex-U.S. ETFs to consider is the Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS).
VXUS, which tracks the FTSE Global All Cap ex-U.S. Index, holds ex-U.S. developed and emerging markets stocks and weights its holdings based on market capitalization. VXUS is an ideal ETF for investors looking for broad-based equity exposure that also eliminates single-stock risk. The ETF holds almost 6,170 stocks, and its top 10 holdings combine for just 8.6% of the fund's roster. (See also: VXUS: Vanguard International Stock ETF.)
The broad approach offered up by VXUS can also help mitigate volatility, which is often an issue when expanding beyond the comfortable confines of U.S. borders. "So, most international stocks are more volatile principally because they are traded in foreign currencies," said Morningstar in a recent note. "And that currency risk, when you invest in a European stock, for example, is the source of the added volatility. If you look at the volatility of European stocks, for example, in their local currencies, their volatility is actually comparable to U.S. stocks that are listed here."
Although VXUS allocates 19% of its weight to emerging markets stocks, that does not make the ETF significantly more volatile than rivals devoted exclusively to developed markets. Over the past three years, VXUS's annualized volatility has been in line with that of the MSCI EAFE Index. (See also: How to Avoid Emerging Markets Volatility.)
VXUS allocates nearly 45% of its weight to European stocks and over 29% of its weight to developed Asia-Pacific markets, such as Japan and Australia. Twenty countries command allocations of 1% or more in VXUS.
VXUS "basically owns pretty much all major non-U.S. stocks, and it weights them according to market capitalization," reports Morningstar. "So, it holds stocks across both foreign developed and foreign emerging markets. And this is a fund that we currently rate Silver. It has a very low expense ratio of 11 basis points and is representative of the composition of the global stock market." Its annual fee of 0.11% makes VXUS less expensive than 90% of competing funds, according to Vanguard data. (See also: Fees Matter With Emerging Markets ETFs.)