ETF Trends
ETF Trends

Today, some of the most widely followed exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that focus on dividend growth employ backward-looking growth screens that require a company to have paid—and in some cases raised—dividends for 5, 10 or even 20 years before becoming eligible for inclusion. This seems like a smart idea, but it keeps many investors from capitalizing on shifting trends in the dividend landscape, specifically when it comes to newer payers and firms recovering from recent dividend contractions.

Dividends have been growing at an incredible pace in recent years, and the Information Technology sector has led the charge, accounting for more than 45% of the increase in dollar dividends.1 But investors in ETFs that use backward-looking growth screens may not see many of these dividend leaders in their portfolios, potentially for many years.

Over a year ago, WisdomTree launched a forward-looking dividend growth ETF that seeks to capture dividend growth trends that often are not captured by indexes that take a backward-looking approach.

DGRW, the WisdomTree U.S. Dividend Growth Fund, looks at fundamental metrics that could indicate future dividend growth potential. Two categories of variables govern stock selection:

1) Quality, defined as companies with high return on equtiy and high return on assets—both key profitability metrics tied to dividend growth potential
2) Growth, defined as companies with high expected earnings growth, as future dividends must be funded from cash flows companies generate

To quantify the cost of looking backward for dividend growth, the chart below shows the performance of DGRW against its benchmark, NASDAQ US Dividend Achievers Select (DVG) Index, which has a 10-year dividend growth look-back screen as part of its methodology.

The Cost of Looking Backward

For current performance of DGRW, click here.

Outperformance since Fund Inception—DGRW has outperformed its benchmark index by 4.69%. An approximate 4.5% over-weight to Apple over the time period contributed 2.3% toward DGRW’s outperformance.2 Even though Apple only reinstituted its dividend in 2012, it is now the second-largest dividend payer in the U.S., and it is responsible for approximately 2.8% of total dividends paid.3 The NASDAQ US Dividend Achievers Select Index had zero exposure to Apple over the period, and, based on the Index’s current methodology, Apple would not be eligible for inclusion until 2023.

Information Technology— DGRW’s approximate 13.2% over-weight to the Information Technology sector contributed around 4.3% toward its outperformance. In addition to Apple, an approximate 4.1% and 2.2% over-weight to Microsoft and Intel, respectively, contributed positively to performance.4 Neither Microsoft nor Intel was a constituent of the NASDAQ US Dividend Achievers Select Index over the period.

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