ETF Trends
ETF Trends

The MSCI EAFE Index is one of the most widely followed benchmarks in the world and the $59.4 billion iShares MSCI EAFE ETF (NYSEArca: EFA) is one of the largest exchange traded funds in the world.

While the MSCI EAFE Index is home to some of the sturdied ex-U.S. dividend markets in the developed world, investors can ratchet up their exposure to the MSCI EAFE Index’s dividend growth with the ProShares MSCI EAFE Dividend Growers ETF (NYSEArca: EFAD).

EFAD, which debuted in August, MSCI EAFE Dividend Masters Index, which holds members of the MSCI EAFE Index that have increased their dividends for at least 10 straight years. The emphasis on dividend increase streaks is the backbone of some of the most popular U.S.-focused dividend ETFs. [Going Global for Dividend Growth]

With investors fretting about the timing of a Federal Reserve rate hike, EFAD’s advantages extend beyond the fact that it is an international ETF. It is notable that dividend stocks typically perform better when rates are flat or falling, but dividend growers will still hold up as rates rise. Additionally, is lightly allocated to the utilities sector and features no telecom exposure. Telecom and utilities are two sectors that are most adversely affected by higher interest rates.

EFAD’s 1.41% dividend yield play implies the ETF is a dividend growth play, not a yield play. On that note, it is worth noting dividend growers in the MSCI EAFE Index have historically outperformed the index with less volatility.

In a webcast with ETF Trends last year, Simeon Hyman, head of investment strategy at ProShares, pointed out dividend-growing stocks have historically outperformed their respective broad equities markets both domestically and abroad, with lower volatility. [Advantages of Dividend Growth ETFs]

At the country level, EFAD allocates nearly 45% of its weight to the U.K., more than double the MSCI EAFE Index’s U.K. weight. However, the large U.K. overweight makes sense for an international dividend growth ETF. In 2014, U.K. firms once again offered excellent dividend growth. Payouts there surged 31% to $135 billion, according to Henderson Global Investors.

Japan, 22.2% of the MSCI EAFE Index, is 8% of EFAD’s weight. Although Japan is historically, a low-yielding developed market, the weak yen is boosting corporate profits there, encouraging companies to increase shareholder rewards, including buybacks and dividends.

Switzerland, EFAD’s second-largest country weight at 10.4%, is one of the steadiest Europe ex-U.K. Dividend growth markets. Estimates indicate that in 2014, the 20 largest firms listed on Switzerland’s benchmark Swiss Market Index paid a record $37.2 billion in dividends.

ProShares MSCI EAFE Dividend Growers ETF