Due to our unique approach, approximately 20% of the ETFs we rate do not have a three-year record. Meanwhile, we are regularly more positive on some ETFs with a three-year track record than other providers, while more negative on other ETFs.

One such example is CFRA top-rated iShares Core High Dividend (HDV), which is up just 7.3% in the three-year annualized period ended November 27. Though this lags behind the 7.8% gain for the S&P 500 Value index, we don’t think this is how HDV should be assessed.

Rather, CFRA is positive on the valuation and risk considerations of the holdings, based on STARS and S&P Global Credit Ratings. Examples of positions with CFRA buy recommendations include AT&T (T), Intel (INTC) and Procter & Gamble (PG).

Meanwhile, HDV’s modest 0.08% expense ratio and tight penny bid/ask spread further support a top rating from CFRA.Another top-rated ETF from CFRA that is viewed less favorably by another independent research provider is Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Index ETF (VWO).

The ETF’s 4.4% three-year total return has lagged the MSCI Emerging Markets Index’s 5.3% annualized gain. However, CFRA is positive on the underlying holdings, which include CFRA buy-recommended Tencent Holdings, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and China Construction Bank.

In addition, VWO’s 0.14% expense ratio and penny bid/ask spread, combined with a bullish technical trend, contribute to the ETF’s high rating.Independent research providers that focus on an ETF’s track record can help you to see what has happened in the past.

Yet, investors who look only backward when choosing an ETF will miss out on many appealing investment ideas for the future. What will drive an ETF to perform well in 2018 has little to do with its past performance history and much more to do with the prospects of its holdings and its fees relative to others.

Todd Rosenbluth is Director of ETF & Mutual Fund Research at CFRA.

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