Heading into this year, plenty of market observers opined that European stocks and the related exchange-traded funds (ETFs) were value plays offering the potential to outperform U.S. equities. That has not been the case as of yet.
About two and a half months into 2019, the S&P Europe 350 Index is up 9.3%, trailing the S&P 500 by 250 basis points. The group of U.S.-listed European ETFs is expansive, meaning investors are likely to find plenty of funds outperforming the S&P Europe 350 Index as well as some European ETFs that are trailing that widely followed benchmark.
Brexit is one black cloud hanging over European ETFs, and the politics surrounding the U.K.’s departure from the European Union (EU) remain contentious.
“Lawmakers resoundingly voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s amended Brexit deal late on Tuesday, forcing parliament to decide whether to back a no-deal Brexit or seek a last-minute delay to the process,” reports Reuters.
Still, some European ETFs have been mostly steady even in the face of Brexit talks, and some of these funds currently offer some value for prescient investors. Here are some of the best ETFs to consider for investors seeking international diversification.
European ETFs: ProShares MSCI Europe Dividend Growers ETF (EUDV)
Expense Ratio: 0.55% per year, or $55 on a $10,000 investment.
Outside of the U.S., some of the steadiest dividend growth markets can be found in developed Europe and the ProShares MSCI Europe Dividend Growers ETF (CBOE:EUDV) is a prime European ETF for tapping the region’s dividend growth. EUDV tracks the MSCI Europe Dividend Masters Index, which requires member firms to have dividend increase streaks of at least a decade.
Domestic dividend growth strategies can feature some sector-level concentration risk. With European ETFs, particularly dividend funds, concentration risk can be seen at the geographic level. Due to their reputations as Europe’s leading dividend growth markets, the U.K., France and Switzerland combine for over 62% of EUDV’s weight.
International dividend growers, like their domestic counterparts, historically outperform non-dividend-growth equivalents. EUDV is higher by about 10% this year and often displays less volatility than traditional European ETFs.
WisdomTree Europe SmallCap Dividend Fund (DFE)
Expense Ratio: 0.58%
Keeping with the theme of European ETFs that are dividend strategies, the WisdomTree Europe SmallCap Dividend Fund (NYSEARCA:DFE) is an ideal way for income investors to access European small-caps. DFE tracks the WisdomTree Europe SmallCap Dividend Index, a benchmark displaying a wide gap over large-cap Europe indexes.
“Since 2013, the WisdomTree Europe SmallCap Dividend Index has opened up a dramatic performance gap over the MSCI Europe Index,” said WisdomTree in a recent note. “European small caps have delivered strong performance in the long term and currently offer a large discount over U.S. equities. That’s where we see an opportunity.”
DFE’s 12-month dividend yield of 4.5% is more than triple the 1.17% on the Russell 2000 Index and it frequently displays less volatility and lower earnings multiples than rival U.S. small-cap funds, making it one of the best ETFs in this area you can get.
iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF (EZU)
Expense Ratio: 0.47%
The iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF (CBOE:EZU) is one of the largest ETFs focusing on the Eurozone, so this European ETF does feature access to British and Swiss stocks, among others. Home to $6.39 billion in assets under management, EZU tracks the MSCI EMU Index and is up about 9% this year.
As is par for the course with many European ETFs that focus on the Eurozone, EZU is heavily allocated to stocks from Germany and France, the region’s two largest economies. France and Germany combine for over 62% of the fund’s weight. With a broad Eurozone recession unlikely this year, investors considering this European ETF should monitor news from the European Central Bank (ECB).
“We see the risk of a broad recession in the region as remote given the European Central Bank’s (ECB) already extra-easy policy, fresh fiscal stimulus and the lifting of the adverse one-off factors mentioned above,” said BlackRock in a recent note. “Yet markets might be rattled by the lack of policy levers to counter a new downturn. The main worry is probably less an actual recession than the fragmented political and financial landscape in which it would play out.”
Global X MSCI Norway ETF (NORW)
Expense Ratio: 0.5%
For tactical investors looking for a European ETF with leverage to one of this year’s best-performing commodities, the Global X MSCI Norway ETF (NYSEARCA:NORW) makes a lot of sense because Norway is one of Europe’s largest oil producers.
NORW reflects Norway’s status as a major oil producer, as the energy sector accounts for more than 29% of the European ETF’s roster. Financials are the second-largest sector weight at almost 22%. The average market value of NORW’s 65 holdings is just under $5 billion, indicating that this European ETF is a mid-cap fund.
Norway’s status as a major oil producer lifts NORW’s annualized volatility to over 24%, which is high relative to other developed Europe single-country ETFs. That said, NORW has outperformed the S&P Europe 350 Index by a margin of almost 2-to-1 over the past three years.
iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF (EWN)
Expense Ratio: 0.47%
Among single-country European ETFs, the iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF (NYSEARCA:EWN) often goes overlooked, but it is the only U.S.-listed fund dedicated Dutch stocks.
For conservative investors, there are some points to consider with EWN, including the fund’s almost 27% weight to the consumer staples sector (EWN’s largest sector allocation). In part, that staples weight has EWN’s three-year standard deviation residing around 13.85%, which is lower relative to a slew of other single-country European ETFs.
That does not mean EWN is boring. The Netherlands ETF allocates more than 22% of its weight to tech stocks, meaning it is actually overweight that sector relative to the S&P 500.
O’Shares FTSE Europe Quality Dividend ETF (OEUR)
Expense Ratio: 0.48%
Another European ETF with a dividend tilt, the O’Shares FTSE Europe Quality Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA:OEUR), targets the FTSE Developed Europe Qual/Vol/Yield 5% Capped Factor Index.
That index “is designed to measure the performance of publicly listed large-capitalization and mid-capitalization dividend-paying issuers in Europe that meet certain market capitalization, liquidity, high quality, low volatility and dividend yield thresholds, as determined by FTSE Russell,” according to O’Shares.
While OEUR yields nearly 3.2% in the trailing 12 months, it is not a high dividend play. In fact, the ETF is designed to avoid high-yield stocks that could be vulnerable to negative dividend action. Like some of the other European ETFs highlighted here, OEUR’s dividend focus leads to a top-heavy geographic allocation with the U.K., Switzerland and France combining for almost two-thirds of the fund’s weight, but that did not prevent OEUR from outperforming the S&P Europe 350 Index over the past year.
JPMorgan Diversified Return Europe Equity ETF (JPEU)
Expense Ratio: 0.38%
The JPMorgan Diversified Return Europe Equity ETF (NYSEARCA:JPEU) is an alternative to traditional, cap-weighted, large-cap European ETFs. This fund “utilizes a rules-based approach that combines risk-based portfolio construction with multi-factor security selection based on value, quality and momentum factors,” according to the issuer.
Diversified European ETF typically mix Eurozone and non-Eurozone economies. The question is how much of those funds’ weight is allocated to U.K. stocks. Nearly 76% of JPEU’s roster is allocated to ex-UK European economies and none of the fund’s 357 holdings exceed weights of 0.5%.
JPEU is also diverse at the sector level with six sectors commanding double-digit weights. This year, JPEU is performing mostly in line with traditional European ETFs, but over the past year, the multi-factor fund has performed much less poorly than standard European equity benchmarks.
Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.