The Dow Jones Industrial Average is one of the most venerable U.S. equity indexes. It is also one of the oldest, having debuted in 1896. After more than 120 years in existence, it stands to reason that the Dow could use a bit of refresher. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) provide an avenue for refreshing the Dow, even if the price-weighted index is not changing. The newest iteration of a Dow ETF debuted earlier this week in the form of the First Trust Dow 30 ETF (EDOW). First Trust is one of the largest issuers of smart beta ETFs, and the issuer stays true to that heritage with EDOW, making the new ETF an equal-weight fund.

The equal-weight methodology is one of the oldest versions of smart beta and represents a significantly different spin on the traditional index, which weights its 30 holdings based on price. What that means is the stock with the highest price tag gets the biggest weight in the Dow. Currently, that is The Boeing Company (BA), followed closely by The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS). Those two stocks combine for over 14.4% of the traditional Dow's weight, but lower-priced stocks matter less in the index. For example, General Electric Company (GE) and Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) combine for just 1.8% of the Dow's weight. In the new EDOW, all stocks receive the same weight of 3.33%. (See also: 3 Types of Indexing for ETF Success.)

EDOW tracks the Dow Jones Industrial Average Equal Weight Index. "The DJIA Equal Weight Index gives equal exposure to all 30 constituents. The same weight, or importance, is given to each stock in the index, allowing for the performance of lower-priced companies to contribute as much as the higher-priced companies within the index," according to First Trust. "To maintain the equal weight focus, the index is rebalanced quarterly (except when there is a component change, in which case the index is rebalanced at the end of the month during which the change takes place)." (See also: Top 3 ETFs That Track the Dow.)

EDOW's equal-weight methodology creates some sector-level differences as well. For example, the top three sector weights in EDOW are technology, industrials and financial services. Those groups combine for 50.6% of the new ETF's weight. In the traditional Dow, the order is industrials, technology and financials at a combined allocation of 55.4%.

EDOW charges 0.5% per year, or $50 on a $10,000 investment, which is somewhat pricey relative to other U.S.-focused large-cap smart beta strategies. For example, the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP) charges just 0.2% per year. (See also: An Equal-Weight ETF at a Lower Fee.)

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