Aided by one of the largest monetary easing programs in the world, Japanese stocks have been among the best developed markets performers over the past several years.
The tumbling yen played a pivotal role in introducing investors to currency hedged exchange traded funds, now one of the fastest growing segments of the ETF market. The WisdomTree Japan Hedged Equity Fund (NYSEArca: DXJ), which has added over $2.9 billion in assets this year, making it one of the top-10 asset gathering ETFs, is now home to $16.4 billion in assets under management. That puts DXJ within striking distance of the iShares MSCI Japan ETF (NYSEArca: EWJ) for the title of largest Japan ETF. [ETFs Add $36.1B in March]
So currency hedging is hot and as U.S. income investors know, so is the concept of dividend growth. The two themes come together in the WisdomTree Japan Hedged Dividend Growth Fund (NYSEArca: JHDG), which WisdomTree (NasdaqGS: WETF) introduced Thursday.
Compared to other developed market destinations, such as the U.S., U.K. and Australia, Japan has a long way to go to prove its dividend mettle. However, the payout situation in historically low-yielding Japan is improving. For example, WisdomTree’s Japan dividend stream last year reached a new high of nearly 8 trillion yen, up 14.6% from the 2008. In dollar terms, the Dividend Stream also reached a new high of $77.2 billion, an increase of 4.5% from the 2012 high, according to WisdomTree.
With the yen falling, Japanese dividend growth is, not surprisingly, being driven by the country’s exporters, which in large part hail from the consumer discretionary sector. The WisdomTree Japan Hedged Dividend Growth Fund allocates over 20% of its weight to discretionary names. Industrials and technology names, export-heavy sectors in their own right, combine for 34% of the new ETF’s weight.
The weights assigned to JHDG’s nearly 250 holdings are “proportional to its cash dividend per share paid over the annual cycle prior to the index screening date multiplied by its shares outstanding, or Dividend Stream, relative to all other Index constituents. Dividends are measured in terms of U.S. dollars, and a company must have paid at least $5 million over the prior annual cycle to be eligible for inclusion,” according to WisdomTree.