An Ascending Quality Factor ETF Play

There are plenty of smart beta ETFs offering investors exposure to the benefits of the quality factor. That group includes the Fidelity Quality Factor ETF (NYSEArca: FQAL).

FQAL tracks the Fidelity U.S. Quality Factor Index “which is designed to reflect the performance of stocks of large and mid-capitalization U.S. companies with a higher quality profile than the broader market,” according to Fidelity.

The quality factor is a point of emphasis for a growing number of strategic beta exchange traded funds. Though there has been debate surrounding defining quality as it pertains to factor-based investing, quality companies and dividend-paying stocks often go hand-in-hand because those dividends are seen as signs of stable earnings and thoughtful management.

Valuing high quality value is particularly important as bull markets enter their waning stages, as some market observers believe the current bull market is doing. In the early stages of bull markets, lower quality companies see their shares soar. However, as the bull matures, investors often exhibit a preference for higher quality fare with more compelling valuations.

FQAL, which is 13 months old, is up more than 15% year-to-date and hit an all-time on Monday. The ETF holds almost 130 stocks with its top 10 holdings combining for about 22% of the fund’s weight. That group includes Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE).

Technology is FQAL’s largest sector allocation at almost 23%. While technology is often associated with the growth and momentum factors, the sector is home to some of the best balance sheets in the U.S. and steady dividend growth, bolstering its quality credibility.