With 10-year down a whopping 21.4% this year, a variety of rate-sensitive, income-generating asset classes and sectors have benefited. Master limited partnerships (MLPs), real estate investment trusts (REITs) and the utilities sector are prime examples.
Traditional dividend stocks and exchange traded funds have also delivered for income-starved investors.
According to S&P Dow Jones Indices, 696 dividend increases were reported during the second quarter of this year compared to the 591 increases which were reported during the second quarter of last year. For the first half of 2014, 1,774 issues increased their payments, up 15.6% from the 1,535 issues that increased their payments during the first half of 2013. [Dividend Growth Meaningful for These ETFs]
One of the more impressive, if not unheralded options among the burgeoning number of dividend ETFs is the WisdomTree Equity Income Fund (NYSEArca: DHS). With a track record this over eight years old and over $887 million in assets under management, DHS is neither an unseasoned ETF nor is it a small fund.
DHS is, however, a compelling avenue for investors looking to exploit an environment that has seen value stocks with decent to strong yields spend substantial time outperforming the S&P 500. [High Dividend ETFs Beat S&P 500]
DHS is up 8.2% this year, a gain that tops the S&P 500 by 820 basis points. The Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSEArca: VIG), the largest U.S. dividend ETF, is up just 2.6% this year.
DHS tracks the WisdomTree Equity Income Index (WTHYE). “Securities ranking in the highest 30% by dividend yield are selected for inclusion. The index is dividend weighted annually to reflect the proportionate share of the aggregate cash dividends each component company is projected to pay in the coming year, based on the most recently declared dividend per share,” according to WisdomTree.
The returns and DHS’ apparent tilt toward higher yielding stocks suggest the ETF has benefited from significant allocations to sectors such as utilities and consumer staples. While that is true to an extent (DHS has a combined allocation to those sectors of 25.4%), the ETF also shines as a value bet with some protection in the event rates do rise.
Included in that value tilt is an 18.7% weight to the lagging financial services sector, DHS’ largest sector weight. While financials have been laggards this year, there is no denying the group is inexpensive relative to the broader U.S. market. For example, the Financial Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLF) shows a price-to-earnings ratio of 14.8 and a price-to-book of 1.2. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index has a P/E ratio of 17.0 and a P/B of 2.3. [Value With Bank ETFs]