One of the cool thing about exchange-traded funds (ETFs) — aside from their intraday tradability — is that they are cheap building blocks for your portfolio. Expenses for bread-n-butter index ETFs continue to fall as sponsors unveil new products and gather assets. The latest salvo in the so-called fee war has been launched by BlackRock (BLK) and its popular iShares brand of ETFs.
After CEO Larry Fink’s recent comments about the how leveraged ETFs were essentially “weapons of mass destruction,” iShares has strengthened its offerings to retail and institutional investors with an expanded core lineup of funds.
And the expanded lineup is a doozy.
Ultimately, the expanded core means more choice for portfolios as well as cheaper operating expenses. Investors looking for more building blocks should take note.
A Doubling of Its ETF Core Suite
Since launching in 2012, iShares core lineup of ten low-cost ETFs have been hits with investors. Roughly $25 billion worth of investor’s cash now sits in the cheap & broad index funds. The original 10 core ETFs covered well-known indices across the United States and international stocks as well as fixed income asset classes.
The fund sponsor “re-imagined” several popular funds with lower expense ratios in addition to creating new products like the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Market ETF (IEMG).
Blackrock has now doubled the suite of index ETFs to 20 different funds. The newest batch of core ETFs takes the “broad & cheap” approach one step further and adds styles such as growth, value and dividends to the mix. The new iShares core lineup also slices up fixed income into smaller, but popular categories and allows investors to bet regionally on international markets.
Taking A Look At The New Core ETFs
Like last time, iShares first took several of its popular funds and renamed them and gave them new tickers to better reflect the new core branding. ETFs that tracked the value and growth segments of the broad Russell 3000 index will now be called iShares Core U.S. Growth ETF (IUSG) and iShares Core U.S. Value ETF (IUSV). Also getting a name change will be the iShares Core U.S. Credit Bond ETF (CRED) — formerly CFT.
Expense ratios were dropped for dividend equities-focused iShares High Dividend ETF (HDV) and on the fixed-income side — the iShares Core U.S. Treasury Bond ETF (GOVT) and iShares Core GNMA Bond ETF (GNMA).
All of those were already great index products and worthy of investment before. The lower expense ratios are just icing on the cake. Where the core lineup gets interesting is in the four new ETFs that iShares has recently unveiled.
First is the iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF (DGRO). The strategy behind the ETF is simple, but powerful one. Companies that continually raise their dividend payments over time will lead to bigger long-term returns. The concept behind DGRO isn’t high current yield, but a growing one. DRGO will track the Morningstar U.S. Dividend Growth Index, and expenses will run a cheap 0.12%.
The second salvo from iShares allows investors to carve up the international developed world into their respective regions. As their names imply, the iShares Core MSCI Europe ETF (IEUR) and iShares Core MSCI Pacific ETF (IPAC) will each track European and Asian-Pacific stocks. IEUR will feature a who’s who of Europe’s giants, while IPAC will tackle the nations of Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan. While these products may sound familiar to iShares investors, there’s a big difference. Like the previously mentioned IEMG ETF, both IPAC and IEUR will also include exposure to mid- and small-cap stocks. That exposure has helped IEMG outperform its strictly large cap sister ETFs in the emerging market space.
Finally, on the fixed-income side, the iShares Core Total USD Bond Market ETF (IUSB) will allow investors to go global with their bond holdings. IUSB will track the Barclays U.S. Universal Index, which follows bonds from across the world that are denominated in U.S. Dollars. That includes U.S. Treasuries, foreign government/sovereigns, corporate bonds, mortgage-backed securities, etc. As long as they are priced in greenbacks, they’re fair game. Most investors are woefully underexposed to the international debt markets, and IUSB offers a cheap way to access that market. Expenses for the new ETF will run just 0.15%. That’s cheaper than some domestic-only bond ETFS.
Great News For Investors In ETFs
All in all, the new lineup from iShares will allow investors the ability to build a strong foundation for their portfolios while adding some tactical exposure. And they get all this for cheap expense ratios that are very comparable to low-cost leader Vanguard’s ETFs.
It’ll be interesting to see what other big-time ETF issuers like Vanguard and State Street (STT) do in response to the new iShares lineup. Either way, investors are the ones that end up winning.
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As of this writing, Aaron Levitt did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.