Another year, another batch of jaw-dropping inflows to Vanguard exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index funds. Focusing on ETFs for a moment, as of May 17, Vanguard had $983.21 billion in U.S. ETF assets under management, making it the second-largest domestic ETF sponsor and putting it within spitting distance of joining BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE:BLK) in the $1 trillion club.
At current ETF asset levels, Vanguard is more than 50% larger than the third-largest U.S. issuer. Year-to-date, four of the top 10 ETFs in terms of new assets added are Vanguard funds. Making Vanguard funds all the more alluring to advisors and investors is the firm’s commitment to low costs. In fact, the Pennsylvania-based fund giant recently trimmed the fees on 21 of its ETFs, including some highly popular fare.
Vanguard funds are spread across multiple asset classes, including domestic and international equities, various fixed income segments, real estate and some factor-based strategies. So when it comes to Vanguard funds, there is usually something for nearly every type of investor.
Here are some of the best Vanguard funds for investors to consider right now.
Vanguard Total International Bond ETF (BNDX)
Expense ratio: 0.09% per year, or $9 on a $10,000 investment.
As is the case with stocks, investors tend to have a home country bias when it comes to bonds. That bias can prevent investors from realizing compelling ex-US opportunities with Vanguard funds, such as the Vanguard Total International Bond ETF (NASDAQ:BNDX).
Among Vanguard funds, BNDX does not grab many headlines, but this year, investors are waking up to this ETF’s story. Year-to-date, BNDX has added $3.61 billion in new assets, a total surpassed by just nine other ETFs. More importantly, this Vanguard fund is proving to be a star among bond ETFs in 2019. BNDX is beating the widely followed, domestically-focused Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Index by almost 100 basis points this year.
BNDX tracks the Barclays Global Aggregate ex-USD Float Adjusted RIC Capped Index and holds nearly 5,800 bonds with an average duration of 7.8 years. All of this Vanguard fund’s holdings have ratings ranging from Baa to Aaa, meaning credit risk is minimal.
Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF (VSGX)
Expense ratio: 0.15%
Last year, Vanguard made its foray into the world of environmental, social and governance (ESG) ETFs with two products, including the Vanguard ESG International Stock ETF (CBOE:VSGX). This Vanguard fund takes a traditional approach to virtuous investing.
VSGX “specifically excludes stocks of companies in the following industries: adult entertainment, alcohol and tobacco, weapons, fossil fuels, gambling, and nuclear power,” according to Vangaurd.
While there are larger ESG ETFs, this Vanguard fund is proving the “Vanguard effect” is meaningful in the ESG space. VSGX debuted last September and already has $266.2 million in assets under management, making it one of the larger international funds in this category.
VSGX holds a mix of developed and emerging market equities with the latter representing 19.40% of the fund’s weight. Developed European markets account for nearly 42% of this Vanguard fund’s geographic exposure.
Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)
Expense ratio: 0.08%
The Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSEARCA:VIG) is the largest U.S. dividend ETF and has attained that lofty status for multiple reasons, including an index methodology that includes only stocks with at least 10 consecutive years of dividend increases and a reputation for being one of the cheaper dividend funds on the market.
“This strategy focuses on dividend growth rather than dividend yield,” said Morningstar in a recent note. “This approach reduces the fund’s exposure to firms with weak fundamentals that may not be able to sustain their dividend payments, which is a risk that often accompanies a narrow focus on yield. The fund builds its portfolio by selecting only among stocks that have increased their dividend payment for at least 10 consecutive years. This stringent hurdle restricts the fund to holding highly profitable firms with shareholder-friendly management teams that have consistently raised dividend payments.”
VIG holds 183 stocks, nearly 48% of which are industrial or consumer staples stocks. With domestic dividends growing this year, but a moderated pace compared to recent years, VIG is an ideal Vanguard fund for investors looking for quality dividend growth.
Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond ETF (VWOB)
Expense ratio: 0.30%
Emerging markets debt is an ideal asset class for income-hungry investors looking for exposure to developing economies with lower risk than equities. The Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond ETF (NASDAQ:VWOB) has a 30-day SEC yield of 4.47%, more than double the dividend yield on the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, and this Vanguard fund is outperforming the major emerging markets ETFs this year.
VWOB holds 834 bonds with an average duration of 7.2 years. There is some credit risk with this Vanguard fund as over 30% of VWOB’s reside toward the lower end of the investment-grade spectrum and nearly 48% carry non-investment grade ratings. Some of that risk is tempered by an almost 17% weight to China, a country that is unlikely to see its credit rating downgraded anytime soon.
This Vanguard fund could prove durable over the medium-term as the Federal Reserve holds off on raising interest rates and emerging markets currencies firm. Several of VWOB’s largest country weights, excluding Mexico, are candidates to lower interest rates, which adds to the case for this Vanguard fund.
Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF (VO)
Expense ratio: 0.04%
With its annual fee of just 0.04%, the Vanguard Mid-Cap ETF (NYSEARCA:VO) is one of the cheapest mid-cap ETFs on the market. Mid-cap stocks are usually defined as those names with market values of $2 billion to $10 billion, though some money managers stretch that to $15 billion. Historical data confirm the efficacy of owning mid-cap stocks.
“Since the Russell Midcap index started in 1979, midcaps have outperformed small-cap stocks on every rolling 10-year period, and they beat small- and midcap stocks combined 90% of the time. Midcap stocks outperform large stocks 73% of the time,” according to Pensions & Investments.
VO holds 369 stocks with a median market value of $15.6 billion, putting the Vanguard fund at the higher end of mid-cap territory. About 57% of the fund’s weight is allocated to just three sectors – financial services, industrials and technology.
Todd Shriber does not own any of the aforementioned securities.